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
Battle of the Sexes may have scored some points, but it hogs it's own ball by focusing too much on Billie Jean King
In the sporting world, most women unfortunately get the short end of the deal. Women have shown that they are just as athletic and strong as any man. It all comes down to biology and that whoever posses the greater ability is going to triumph. It can be men, but women just have enough chance. Sports in no different, but that environment has been a male dominated area for a long time. From the early days of the Ancient Greek Olympic games to the modern NFL, the doors were open to all men, but women have always been led to their own segregated event, or even told not to try.
The second half of the twentieth century gave in to the rise of feminism as society further accepted the role the women would play. The workforce, science, and even politics would see their fair share of women pioneers, but when it came to sports, this was still seen as a mans game. In the 1970s, a group of women athletes tried to change things by not only starting their own tennis organization, but helped set up a match to prove their ability to equal the men. This is all done in Battle of the Sexes.
Tennis star Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone) has made a big name for herself, having won the Grand Slam Championships along with the US Open and Wimbledon, and all by the age of twenty-nine. Though despite her name, she finds out that she and every other female tennis athlete were making thousands less the men, all because of their gender. She asks for an equal pay from the executive director of the Association of Tennis Professionals Jack Kramer (played by Bill Pullman) but is denied. In defiance, she and several other women tennis players quit the circuit to start their own series of tournaments.
Meanwhile, former tennis star Bobby Riggs (played by Steve Carell) is dealing with his compulsive gambling and still seeks attention from the media. To boast his image and the sport of tennis, he pitches to Billie Jean King an exhibition match where the two would play, and "show why men are better athletes". Though aware it's a publicity stunt, Billie turns him down. In 1973, Billie is again pitched, but this time accepts for the sake of her fellow athletes. At the same time however, she is going through personal troubles as she begins an affair with her hairdresser Marilyn (played by Andrea Riseborough).
Given a lot of the controversial political trouble that the U.S. has been going through, Battle of the Sexes seems to be made at the right time. A tennis match between two different ideologies seems to summarize a lot of the thoughts and concerns people are having with the future. I'd say that overall, not all of the game was played right. What I mean is that while the movie as a whole promises a fair share, the story seems to be one sided with Billie Jean King.
Both Emma Stone and Steve Carell play their characters fine enough. I can see why Emma Stone would be attracted to this part after winning her Oscar for La La Land; it shows how much a personal issue could affect an athlete's mental game. She is interesting and you do want her to see her prevail her cause. Steve Carell may seem to going back to comedic roots that could be seen as hammy, but understand that Bobby Riggs had a large personality that would require a Steve Carrel. I just wished the movie would have given us more time to explore that part of his character.
Like the title of this movie, everything leads up to the match. The problem is that while I like the events that lead us there, the movie doesn't seem to be interested in the Bobby Riggs side. I wonder if the original script was originally a Billie Jean Kings biopic that was rewritten to be about this match and the controversies surrounding this. This leads into a movie that means well, but is structurally uneven with its tone. This will surely be a movie that will be championed for it's positive look on female athletes, but for those that want to look into the history of The Battle of the Sexes, there must be some books about it that tell the story better.
I'll give it six tennis balls out of ten. I cannot dismiss the movie completely as when it tells Billie Jean King's story, I liked it. I just wish that Bobby Riggs had gotten a fairer portrayal. I'd say if your going to see this, look into the facts and people behind the actual Battle of the Sexes first. Do all of that, and see if the balls in your court.
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