Battle of the Sexes

The 1973 true story of former tennis champ, Bobby Riggs, saying he could beat the women’s number one tennis player, Billie Jean King.

Battle of the Sexes

Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Natalie Morales, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman

Directed by: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Written by: Simon Beaufoy

Rating: PG-13
Length: 2 hours 1 minute
Genre: Biopic
Release Date: September 29, 2017

Battle of the Sexes is a biopic of Billie Jean King at the prime of her tennis career, but it much more than that. Women were experiencing sexism, not only in the sports arena, but also in their careers. It’s ridiculous that it is still going on today. I believe the only difference between then and now is that the reasons why women were paid less were much more blatant. I think for some people, the reasons haven’t changed, but the reasons given are more vague or done in secret.

The movie does an excellent job showing that everyone was paying attention to Billie Jean King at this time since she was the best player in tennis. I thought about today that I know the names of Serena and Venus Williams, but do not know a current male tennis player. That wasn’t always the case, but it ebbs and flows with who is the most popular and/or best at the sport at the time.

The movie also covers Billie Jean being married to her husband Larry, even though he recognizes that she is really married to tennis, but she is also conflicted about her feelings towards the woman hairdresser she meets who then decides to go on tour with the women tennis players. That is a good portion of the movie, and while I did enjoy it, it did drag a bit in these parts. It started to seem a bit repetitive.

Bobby Riggs isn’t given as much screen time, but you do get the sense that he was fine being a clown for the media if it got him endorsement deals that helped with his gambling problem. It also gave him some of his own money, which was funny since he loved to say sexist statements, but he was living off his rich wife’s money after he retired from tennis.

Both Emma Stone and Steve Carell were excellent in this movie. They inhabited their characters really well. I had wished that they had been able to interact with each other more on screen, since that was really entertaining when they finally reached the game at the end. It was a lot of fun. The final tennis game felt like it went on a little long. I can understand how they needed to show it going back and forth, and I’m not sure what I would have cut out of it and still kept that part of the story intact, but since I knew who would win, I was ready to cut to the chase.

I also wanted more time devoted to the relationship between Billie Jean and Jack Kramer, played by Bill Pullman. Hints of their history came into the beginning scenes, but I wondered if some other scenes were cut from the film that might have delved into the relationship a bit more. I think it would have made her triumph at the end even better with knowing how much she had possibly looked up to him before realizing how much he didn’t fully respect her as an athlete.

Overall, I think the actors were better than the movie. I liked the story it wanted to tell, but didn’t completely love the execution.

Random observations:

  • I really like Alan Cumming as the fashion designer. While watching,  I realized that I really like him in everything I see him in. He needs to be in more things.
  • Sarah Silverman was highly entertaining as Billie Jean’s non-stop smoking agent.
  • I was surprised when I learned in the movie that Billie Jean was married. When she was dancing with a blonde guy at a party, I thought it was a promotional stunt and he was some hired hand.
  • When one of Bobby Riggs’ friends, played by Eric Christian Olsen, appeared on screen, Steve uttered his favorite line from Not Another Teen Movie.


Grade: B-

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