In 1973, the world’s #1 women’s tennis player Billie Jean King and former champion Bobby Riggs engaged in a historic tennis match that would be dubbed The Battle of the Sexes. In the lead-up to this match, and having just beat Margaret Court, Riggs ridiculed women and constantly claimed that men were superior to women. For Riggs, the match was an opportunity to win a lot of money while proving his beliefs about male supremacy. For King, however, this was about proving that women were very much equal to men and deserved to be making just as much money as they did.
This is the setting for the Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris directed film, but Battle of the Sexes is so much more than that. Yes, a central piece of the plot is King’s battle for equality but that is only half of it. The film is also a story of self-discovery and accepting yourself for who you really are. At the time of the events in the film, Billie Jean was married to a man but after meeting Marilyn Barnett, she realized she wasn’t being honest with herself about who she really was. Battle of the Sexes is as much about equality as it is about becoming comfortable in your own skin.
The performances in this film are outstanding. When Emma Stone won her Oscar for La La Land at the last Academy Awards ceremony, there was an outcry from people who didn’t think she deserved the win and they downplayed her acting abilities. In Battle of the Sexes, however, Stone proves that her win was no fluke and firmly establishes herself as one of today’s elite actresses. This was a layered performance that allowed Stone to completely disappear into her character.
For his part, Steve Carell was also able to deliver an award-worthy performance as the gambling-addicted, egomaniacal Bobby Riggs. This proved to be a role that Carell was born to play as he perfectly portrayed Riggs in this film. Like Emma Stone, Carell was able to add nuance to his character. This was a complicated character to portray. Carell needed to show how brash Riggs was, but also how damaged and lonely he was.
Battle of the Sexes is the type of film that could have come across as cheesy had in been in the wrong hands. However, with Dayton and Faris at the helm the film ended up feeling smart and relevant. There are so many parallels between the film and the current events in our world. The pay disparity between men and women is something we are still struggling with, but it was amazing seeing how Billie Jean King was able to open up that conversation for women in tennis. It was almost impossible to see the interactions between King and Riggs and not think of our most recent presidential election. As a whole, the movie shows how far we’ve come as a society. It also highlights how much farther we still need to go to level the playing field for everyone regardless of gender or sexual preference.
We currently find ourselves in a time where a lot of issues related to gender are filling up our news feeds. Parts of our society still can’t seem to grasp the idea that women are just as good as men are and deserve equal treatment. Battle of the Sexes is a timely and powerful film that needs to be seen by everyone. What Billie Jean King did was an important step towards gender equality and I hope that her story will inspire others to act in the same way she did.
|Battle of the Sexes (2017)|
|Director:||Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris|
|Release Date:||September 22nd, 2017|