The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King
and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs
Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Steve Carell
BATTLE OF THE SEXES begins with Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) just winning the women’s singles tennis championship making her number one female player in the world. King is outraged with the inequality of pay by the National Tennis League, especially with Jack, the chairman (Bill Pullman), who is shown to be the real villain of the story.
Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), arranges the battle of the sexes match, using his loud mouth and publicity to earn himself some cash to aid his failing marriage. To King, winning this match is more symbolic. It is a milestone for women’s rights for equal pay, a point that is mentioned at the film’s end credits but not made clear throughout the film.
The lazy script by Simon Beaufoy (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) never bothers with important details of the story. How, for example did King’s husband Larry, learn of his wife’s sexuality. In the film, King tells her hairdresser lover that this is her first time with women, but apparently the husband knows King has has same sex relationships before.
The film overdramatizes to the point of laughter. One scene has Billie’s lover in her hair salon shop hearing the news of Billie, realizing that she is needed and dramatically drops everything to leave the salon.
The wardrobe of the 70’s has never looked so awful in any other film. Did we, in the 70’s really look that bad thinking we were looking so cool? Billie’s husband, Larry ‘s clothes are the worst. Perhaps that might be one reason she later left him. The hair of everyone is just as bad, including Billie’s even after a hairdo from her girlfriend.
The script contains lots of inane dialogue and unfunny jokes. One line has Larry asking his wife if she was getting a blow dry, with full sexual innuendo. The film sheds no real light on the female rights movement, except what we already know. The dialogue contains lot of cheap jokes on women like Riggs saying that he believes women should be on the tennis court, but for picking up balls. These jokes are predictable, told many times before and if they meant to offend women, they still might. Two anti-female remarks are also voiced by two stars Llyod Bridges and Ricardo Montalban shown on old TV footage.
The crucial tennis match between King and Riggs can hardly be called exciting. For one, history already dictates who had won and the audience is in for no surprise. The camera is also placed mainly in one spot, showing the overhead shot of the players. The directors appear more concerned to show the match in long takes than any thing else.
Oscar Winner Emma Stone is too skinny to look like a tennis player. Carell looks remarkably like Bobby Fisher as they are right around the same age in the story. The nude picture of Carell resembles the one taken by Riggs. The rest of the cast of Sarah Silverman, Elisabeth Shue are largely wasted by the script that are unbothered with these characters.
BATTLE OF THE SEXES ends up a boring film on an exciting sport.