Battle of the Sexes
At the turn of the 1970s, women’s tennis was beginning to experience a revolution in the game like never before. A group of nine of the worlds top female players came together in protest against the United States Lawn Tennis Association and their guidelines and restrictions for women’s prize money. To rebel against the inequality in pay between the men and women’s game, this group, including the likes of Billie Jean King, Kirsty Pigeon and Margaret Court, formed a new tour, labelled the Virginia Slims Circuit. With the formation of this new travelling tournament came an increase in tensions between the USLTA and public opinion, leading inevitably to the battle of the sexes and one Mr Bobby Riggs.
In Battle of the Sexes, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and her group of rebellious female tennis players decide to stand up to the harsh acts of sexism and inequality from Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), Chairman of the USLTA. As the newly formed women’s tour progresses, American former Wimbledon Champion Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) is drawn by his desire to prove that men are simply better players than women and when coupled with his dangerous yet comic gambling addiction, believes that a match between himself and Billie Jean King is a fantastic opportunity to make a large sum of money. Fighting her own personal battles, King is struggling to keep her grasp on the top spot in women’s tennis, with distractions from a new sexual partner and her feminist drive for equality. In a match that would define the future of the sport, King and Riggs battle their own personal issues, whilst also competing for a greater cause.
As opposed to other sporting pictures, Battle of the Sexes has an immense and intricate focus on the character and the people over the tennis itself. We learn about Billie Jean King’s values as a person within the opening scenes of the film, portrayed excellently by Oscar-winner Emma Stone, but it is the message she wishes to convey that drives her being and motives throughout the picture. The build up to the match takes up a majority of the movie, and directors Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris prefer to look at the players’ journeys to the magic day. Steve Carell is wildly entertaining as the serial hustler Bobby Riggs, using his comic timing and character’s back story to win over a few hearts before his chauvinist act is put on.
With moments of extreme sexism that would not pass in any form of setting in the 21st century, Battle of the Sexes is a display of power from female players, along with sexual confusion and a moral sense of justification. It could be said that the picture has slightly romanticised the true events that took place in 1973 in order to make it a feature-length film, but none the less the movie is a very pleasant reenactment of the events prior to one of the greatest tennis matches in history, with strong supporting performances from the likes of Andrea Riseborough as King’s lover Marilyn Barnett and Austin Stowell as Larry King, the devoted husband of the tennis superstar, who actually received a very raw deal once the events of the day were over.
Battle of the Sexes is released nationwide on 24th November 2017.
Watch the trailer for Battle of the Sexes here: