Battle of the Sexes Biography

'Battle of the Sexes' Film Review: A blast from the past sure to serve up an ace with audiences

September 22, 2017Britany Murphy

With Academy Award winner Emma Stone at the forefront as tennis champion Billie Jean King, Battle of the Sexes is great fun to watch, pitting her against Academy Award nominee Steve Carell as the eccentric, former tennis pro — and infamous male chauvinist — Bobby Riggs, as they face each other on and off the court in what was the most-watched sporting event of its time.

Set in 1973, the film finds King in a career slump. Having just left their current organization over an equal pay dispute, she and the rest of her female tennis-playing comrades decide to head to the inaugural WTA Women’s Tour for a dollar each, thus fueling the argument of whether women tennis players should earn the same amount as their male counterparts when many deemed them to be neither as good nor as entertaining as the men.

With all of this happening — and with Riggs being particularly outspoken about what he felt was lacking on the women’s side of the sport — King’s game takes a downward spiral. Losing the title of women’s world number one to her competitor, Margaret "The Arm" Court (Jessica McNamee), the 29-year-old King is left to pick up the pieces of her game, while at the same time dismissing Riggs’ attempts to lure her into a match that would decide once and for all which gender ruled supreme on the tennis court.

Aside from having to contend with Riggs and her own professional problems, King also had some personal battles that came to light while on the WTA Tour. Although married to her husband, Larry (Austin Stowell), she was hiding a secret — one deemed deeply problematic if she planned on continuing her career in tennis. On top of this, the movie also depicts Riggs' struggles with gambling and the marital problems between him and his wife, making for a tense match of back-and-forth action on and off the court for both main characters.

Coming off of her Oscar-winning turn in La La Land, Emma Stone perfectly portrays Billie Jean King. As King's public and personal life collide, Stone’s performance is both gripping and believable. Meanwhile, Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs is a joy to behold, as he nails Riggs’ exuberance, excitement and showboating ways with ease. Suffice to say, it's hard not to focus on him when he’s on screen, especially when co-stars Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming are equally scene-stealing, possessing perfect comedic timing and delivering the most moving moments of the film.

Directed by the duo of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks), the movie is shot very much like a tennis match. It has its ups and downs, and set points and match points, but it ultimately arrives at a happy conclusion for all parties involved. That said, the final on-court showdown between King and Riggs can't help but feel anticlimactic, especially when you consider what these two opponents have already gone through.

Ultimately, Battle of the Sexes isn't just entertaining, but also serves to share many lessons concerning equality that still prove very pertinent today. And while the film on the whole doesn't come close to the excitement of winning a championship at Wimbledon, it’s still the kind of movie that should serve up a smash for spectators.

Battle of the Sexes releases September 22nd, 2017 from Fox Searchlight Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for some sexual content and partial nudity. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 1 min.

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