In the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women's movement, the 1973 tennis match between women's world champion Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-men's-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was billed as the BATTLE OF THE SEXES and became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time, reaching 90 million viewers around the world. As the rivalry between King and Riggs kicked into high gear, off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. The fiercely private King was not only championing for equality, but also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, as her friendship with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) developed. And Riggs, one of the first self-made media-age celebrities, wrestled with his gambling demons, at the expense of his family and wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue). Together, Billie and Bobby served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis court, sparking discussions in bedrooms ...Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
The Fox logo at the beginning of the film is changed to resemble that from 1973 to help give the film the feel that it was made in the year the events covered in the story took place. See more »
The images on the monitors in the TV production truck just before and during the final match are clearly simulated. Images shown on professional broadcast monitors of that era either had rounded corners with no gray areas around image, or rectangular corners surrounded by gray areas, but never rounded corners surrounded by gray. See more »
Miss King said she will not play for the money but, in her words, "to put women's tennis and women's lib back where it belongs. Riggs said he issued the challenge because "I want to prove that women are lousy and they don't belong on the same court as a man."
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The Fox Searchlight Pictures and TSG Entertainment logos are redone in period-appropriate styles. See more »
"You've come a long way, Baby." Virginia Slims' promo
Although it is difficult to determine just how far women's rights and social equality have progressed in the last half century, the victory of Billie Jean King over Bobby Riggs in the 1973 tennis exhibition match was a spectacular publicity success for all movements where women fought male chauvinism on the court, in the courts, and in the home. Based on the real events, Battle of the Sexes is a successful film rendering of the battle for that equality.
Besides, it's an entertaining docudrama. Emma Stone as King certifies herself as an actress of considerable range after her Oscar for the romantic La La Land. Steve Carell as Riggs is playful and cunning just like Riggs, who underestimated King's skill and savvy.
The principals of this contest knew much more than money rode on its promotion, for chauvinists like Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) needed the lesson that women were worth the same money as male athletes. Besides, the world itself needed to change its attitude about the inferiority of women.
Acclaimed directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris faithfully and impressively recreate the '70's with such jewels as a sound track featuring Crimson and Clover and Rocket Man. The directors valiantly though sometimes abruptly cut between the two camps, frequently stressing King's emerging gay interest in hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough).
While dramatizing this facet of the LGBT movement, the filmmakers allow the sequences involving the lovers to be at times too long and obvious. Yet, as I think of how difficult it is for gay athletes even today to be up front about their sexuality, I must commend the depiction in this film.
Although freedom of choice was undoubtedly a sub theme, the game afoot was tennis, and Riggs and King were clown and queen. It was great entertainment that this docudrama gets about perfectly right. And let's thank the Williams sisters for carrying the torch into modern life with dignity.
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