I often wondered what all the hubbub was about concerning Battle of the Sexes. This film is a great introduction to history, while explaining the importance of a new era of women's civil rights in sports as well as off the court. Often the best stories are derived from real events and tell a more intriguing perspective.
The story begins as Billy Jean King (Emma Stone) confronts, Jack Kramer, (Bill Pullman), a former tennis pro and president of the USTLA. The issue concerns the disparity between the women's prize ($1,000) and the men's prize ($10,000). Both Billie Jean King and Gladys Heldman, World Tennis Magazine founder (Sarah Silverman), argued that the women had equal amount of paid ticket holders as the men.
Heldman and King decided to breakaway from the USLTA (United States Lawn Tennis Association) and form their own women's league. This was not an easy feat. King enlisted eight other top women tennis players, which became known as "The Original 9". These women boycotted the Pacific Southwest Championships and went on to create a women's tennis league called the "Virginia Slims Circuit Tour". Australian Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) became one of Billie Jean King's biggest rivals on the tour. Both competed for the women's championship and won several titles.
After becoming bored with retirement, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), a former male tennis champion (in the 30's and 40's), longs to return to the spotlight. He initially challenges Billie Jean King to a match, but she declines, realizing the hard implications of her loss. Margaret Court beats Billie Jean King and becomes the new women's champion. Riggs ultimately seizes this opportunity, using his wit and charm to woo the media while convincing Court to play against him. He strikes a deal to play Court televised on the CBS Sports channel in the first of the Battle of the Sexes. On May 13, 1973, Riggs plays an exhibition match with Court and the winner would earn $35,000. Court not only looses the match 6-2, 6-1; this would be dubbed as the "Mother's Day Massacre."
Billie Jean King becomes infuriated at the outcome of the match. Bobby Riggs continues to taunt female tennis players, calling them inferior (perpetuates his male chauvinism), and creates more of a spectacle of the event. King, finally agrees to compete against Riggs, only if she can control the circumstances surrounding the match.The purse is $100,000 for the winner. The game was televised on prime time ABC and held at the Houston Astrodome on Thursday, September 20, 1973.
Simon Beaufoy did a great job writing a screenplay that highlights the personal lives of both Riggs and King. Over the course of the film, Bobby's gambling addiction catches up with him. Also, while Billie Jean is married to Larry King (Austin Stowell), she struggles with a new-found sexual relationship with her female hairdresser, Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough).
After loosing a few tournaments and contracting the flu, some wondered whether Billie Jean could handle the pressure of competing against Riggs. The media questioned a few famous athletes as they weighed in on their estimated outcome of the Battle of the Sexes (II) match. This event would come to be one of the most important competitions for women. King believed that she was fighting for social equality and equal pay.
At the time (1973), King was 29 and Riggs was 55 years old. Four months, earlier he played Court, who was 30. She won the match, beating Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. King became a champion of women's liberation , however, the women's civil rights movement still encountered many obstacles in the years to come and even today.
This film provides a great historical backdrop for social issues of its time. But many of these gender equality issues are still relevant today (i.e. females still earn less than their male counterparts). Also, women of color earn comparatively less.
I enjoyed the fact that this story displayed the ins and outs of why these events were pivot in history! Details are so important, right down to clothing and memorabilia (Sugar Daddy jacket and nouveau style tennis skirts).
There were some great casting choices: like Emma Stone, Steve Carrell, Bill Pullman, Sarah Silverman, Andrea Riseborough, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, and Austin Stowell.
This film was insightful and delicately addressed the development and motivation of characters, shedding light on actual events. I would give this film 3 stars out of 4. It was light and funny, but at the same time there were some very grievous civil rights being violated (drama) with the comments and actions made by Riggs, Kramer, the media, and other men in the film. This film was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, produced by Christian Colson, Danny Boyle, Robert Graf, and distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.