If in tennis a golden set is a set that is won without dropping a single point, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s (“Little Miss Sunshine”) “Battle of the Sexes” drops nothing and goes home with the cup.

If you’re old enough to read this, you remember both the flamboyant Bobby Riggs and the subdued Billie Jean King and their historic duel in 1973.

Here, Emma Stone plays Billie Jean, and Steve Carell imitates the gambling-addicted, showboating tennis star Bobby Riggs. That alone, and the real story about that 1970s event, should send you right to the closest movie house.

“Battle” is not an ESPN documentary of the time. It’s a film rich with comedy and heartbreak despite Carell’s prosthetic teeth.

The story revolves around tennis, yes, but it dives deeply into the personal lives of both players, past the headlines and coverage of the prejudices of the era and the “Battle of the Century,” giving us two three-dimensional characters around which a few two-dimensional players roam.

Emma Stone, in yet another polished performance, gives us King’s internal conflict when rather late in life she meets Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), a hairdresser prepping her for an appearance. Sex bubbles up and makes an unwelcome appearance at the wrong time.

Today, a lesbian outing wouldn’t even be talked about. Then, it was kept a secret. Being gay could send your career — whether sports hero, movie star, or NASCAR star — into the deep weeds, never to return. (Was there ever a gay NASCAR star?)

But that’s old water under the bridge in not-that-long-ago America. Billie Jean King eventually came out of the shadows to be a leading spokesperson for gay rights and equality in all avenues of life. A sweet and happy ending.

But in those few months, Billie Jean’s marriage to her supportive husband Larry (Austin Stowellbegan) began to show cracks as her and Marilyn’s feelings for one another became more obvious.

Riggs’ story, on the other hand, explodes right from the start with his stadium-shaking personality and over-the-top, attention-grabbing, clownish antics that he used to grab the spotlight. Sound familiar?

Eager to regain his notoriety as a national player, Riggs played tennis in the rain with an umbrella and a Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy costume.

Riggs’ marriage, too, was breaking up. Oscar nominee Elisabeth Shue is his wealthy wife, who has lost patience with his gambling addiction and tossed his shoes out the window.

Directors Dayton and Faris break open the fading scrapbook of the time with the “Man-splainer” chauvinistic arrogance of the big sports money guys, who were doing their best to quash the growing women’s lib movement.

King and other women who were struggling to gain some financial ground in sports were met with polite, condescending smiles, pats on the head and comments from sports promoters like Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) who whispered teeth-gritting remarks like, “We have to support the guys because men have families to support,” and “Besides, let’s face it, Billie, the men are more exciting to watch.” To make matters worse, the promoters cut down on the payments for women.

The famed Margaret Court from Australia (Jessica McNamee), who, with husband and baby, was defending her title at the time, simply went with the flow. But King’s group, a pack of fem fighters who formed the Virginia Slims Circuit, took up arms and formed a rival women’s tournament, headed up by their fiery manager Gladys Heldman (a terrific and gutsy Sarah Silverman).

The action moves into high gear with tension growing as the big day arrives.

Riggs, confident of victory, arrives promoting Sugar Daddy candy bars with a bevy of cuties all wearing Sugar Daddy jackets.

In the corridors, Billie Jean, simply eager to get on the court and whip Riggs, swallows her pride for the moment and goes along with an embarrassing entrance as she agrees to be carried in on a Cleopatra-like, bejeweled litter by shirtless glamour boys.

Simon Beaufoy’s script is a joy. He gives everyone just enough material to build on.

“Battle of the Sexes” sneaks in just in time to give a well deserved nomination envelope to the amazing Stone.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former film and stage actor.

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