The 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs became the most watched televised sports event of all time. Trapped in the media glare, King and Riggs were on opposites sides of a binary argument, but off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. With her husband urging her to fight for equal pay, the private King was also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, while Riggs gambled his legacy and reputation in a bid to relive the glories of his past.
Battle of Sexes is based on a true story-the kind of story you wouldn’t believe if it didn’t actually happen. Emma Stone plays famous tennis player Billie Jean King and Steve Carrell is famous loudmouth Bobby Riggs. While this is a film about tennis, there is much more substance here. What lies not very deep below the surface is a film about gender equality and sexuality.
Emma Stone is a revelation as Billie Jean King, she’s even better here than last year in La La Land (a performance for which she won the Academy Award for best actress.) Steve Carell is also great as Riggs, delivering from what I’ve heard is a spot on impression of the tennis legend. Emma Stone will most likely yield an Oscar nomination for this performance and who knows could she maybe even go back-to-back?
The filmmakers clearly have a lot to say here and the message is good and clear. This is a sports film and it does hit on the normal cliches, but it also is very determined to spread its message. Sometimes it can spread itself too thin trying to criss cross back and forth. It doesn’t as much feel like a sports film as it does a biopic about King and a eye opening tale about social issues.
One of the few problems with Battle of the Sexes is the lack characterization for Bobby Riggs. Emma Stone as Billie Jean King dominates this film and it spends the majority of its time building around her. This really isn’t a problem as King is much more of an interesting person, but I had difficulty feeling any kind of emotion for Carrel’s character despite his great portrayal. The relationships that are set up with him fall flat and don’t even come close to those set up with King.
Something that I really loved about Battle of the Sexes is the retro look and feel that it has. The most notable example of this is end tennis match that was phenomenally done and really feels like an event in the actual time frame it took place in. From the cinematography to the editing this makes for impeccably done 1970’s aesthetic, which for me was one of the most enjoyable parts of this film.
Overall, Battle of the Sexes is a good time. It has a lot to say but never skips out on the entertainment. This is a very interesting true story that is brought to life by two incredible lead performances. Don’t miss it.