In terms of sports, one of the biggest headlines of the last half century occurred within the confines of the Houston Astrodome. On September 20, 1973, two tennis champions squared off against one another. Bobby Riggs took on Billie Jean King in a “friendly” tennis match that had eyes and ears all over the world trained on this single spectacular event. You see, this was no ordinary competition. Lines have been drawn and both sides have something to prove. Battle of the Sexes attempts to settle a score will have both sides fighting until the bitter end.
Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) is fed up and has had it. Living in world and existing in a sport that proudly wears its gender bias on its sleeve has finally taken a toll on her. When faced with another financial slap in the face just because she’s lacking a Y chromosome, the time to stand tall and challenge the status quo has come. No longer will she play for peanuts while her male counterparts receive caviar. Billie wants women to be recognized fairly. This leads to a revolution, if you will, that will see these proud women going out to stand on their own and collect a much more fair wage. Of course the traditionalist want to squash this movement before it gets going to far, and this is where ex-Grand Slam champion Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) comes into play. Battle of the Sexes is a fierce competition of epic proportion.
The challenge for a movie such as this sports biopic is that, with so much already known about this story, how can you make a compelling and enjoyable creation when cat is already out of the bag from a plot perspective? Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris do a great job directing the talent and shaping each of these normally serious actors to become something larger. Both Carell and Stone have been acknowledged by fans and critics alike for being more than just single genre actors. Once again, both are on their respective games from a performance point of view. Carell’s macho and chauvinistic bravado will certainly make some viewers’ skin crawl with disgust and disdain. Stone gives her best performance since, well, La La Land (2016).
High marks go to the makeup team that nails the 1970s look down to the finest of details. If nothing else, Battle of the Sexes, lives and breathes a true air of authenticity. There is good depth from the supporting cast, such as Andrea Riseborough, Bill Pullman and Alan Cumming to name a few. I wanted see a bit more from Sarah Silverman and Elisabeth Shue. As it relates to the story itself, both actors had pivotal roles but neither one makes their presence felt in a way that makes them conversation worthy. Thankfully focus jumps around a lot so you don’t get bogged down with any of the secondary characters.
Depending on how much of the actual ‘Riggs v King’ story you’re familiar with, there are a few aspects that came out after the fact that may totally change personal views on this entire occurrence. If you like a less complicated, more Hollywood-esque story, stick with the broad strokes displayed in this movie. If you must know more details, Google is your friend (or even this link for that matter).
Either way you slice it, Battle of the Sexes is a interesting look a special moment in American history. There’s a lot to be learned from watching this and it’s kind of funny how, even to this day, people will debate superiority and equal rights. Catch this two hour look into the rise of a gender demanding equality while still dealing over every day crap that people deal with. In theaters now.