Battle of the Sexes (2017)
Reader Rating (Rate Here): [Total: 1 Average: 3/5]
Directed By: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Elizabeth Shue, Alan Cumming, Andrea Riseborough, Austin Stowell
Battle of the Sexes pitches one of the greatest players of tennis, 29 years old Billie Jean King(Emma Stone) against 56 years old former World No.1 tennis champion Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). This was one of the most iconic moment not just in the history of tennis but in the history of sports itself. The match had an estimated audience of 90 million worldwide and raised the profile of women players who at that time were not taken seriously- as quoted by Bob Sanders in the movie “People pay to see the men play. They’re the draw.” The movie shows the lives of Billie Jean and Bobby Riggs in parallel and what transpires for them to converge onto the court facing each other.
Battle of the Sexes starts with Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) celebrating her US Open championship- at the peak of her career- a champion both on and off the court, fighting for the cause of gender equality. She quits when she is informed that in a tournament (not told in the film but in reality the Pacific Southwest Championships) the top prize for women is one-eighth of that of men’s and instead plays in the Virginia Slims Invitation held for only 9 female athletes. After the success of this tournament a breakaway tour called Virginia Slims Circuit was formed which would eventually lead to the foundation of WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) circuit. She is happily married to Larry King (Austin Stowell) and the marriage is threatened when she realizes that she is gay and starts an affair with her hair dresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough). Emma Stone has given a brilliant performance- for me its her best yet and in her avatar with spectacles and chain I felt it was a documentary featuring Billie Jean herself. Her pain during her awakening to her sexuality and inability to proclaim it in front of the world is real.
On the other hand Bobby Riggs is a 56 year old former champion who is addicted to gambling and is in therapy for it. And his gambling debt is often cited as the main reason for him pursuing female athletes for this exhibition match. But on watching this movie I realized he has a bigger addiction- addiction to limelight- he wanted people to discuss him, serenade him. He was a master opportunist who after the revolt by Billie Jean proposes and even taunts her for a match. I believe if he was a salesman for a company he would have made a bigger fortune. Nevertheless he entertains people and is quick at catching the pulse of the public by quoting “Now, don’t get me wrong, I love women, in the bedroom and in the kitchen” . And I also think this is where the movie falters when it becomes too much of Billie Jean and less of Bobby Riggs.
As per the movie the villain is not Bobby Riggs but a bigger force of the world in itself. A world which comprises of gender prejudice; a world which is willing to reward a clown like Bobby Rigs but not a genuine sports woman and a champion who takes her work seriously. The brilliance of the movie is it captures the settings of 1970’s, from the hair to makeup to the behavior you get a vintage feel. But the fact that we are in 2018 and we are still fighting the same fight makes me sad. The involvement of Marilyn in the movie is also very less, I would have loved to know her version of the relationship and in the end felt she used by the directors just for sex.
I would suggest you to watch Battle of the Sexes, and yes though there are some things missing here as discussed above but still its light pace and relevant theme makes it a compelling watch.
Sports Reporter: Forty million people watching, any last words?
Billie Jean King: I’m done talking. Let’s play