BATTLE OF THE SEXES – 8.0
In a word: Struggles
This is an entertaining, well-done movie about personal struggles within two sports stars who lived under the public eye. Folks who’ve been around a while, will remember the much ballyhooed tennis match between the dominant, 29-year-old female star of 1973, and the over-the-hill once-great Bobby Riggs, 55 year-old, who challenged Billie Jean King to a one-on-one match to prove a great man would always beat a great woman on the court.
There was much more playing out in this docudrama than a mere tennis match, although the fact remains that the event topped the charts as the most watched sports even (then) in history.
At play was the rise of women’s plight for equality in a time when male professionals earned ten times the dollars than did women, and it appeared their demands were falling on deaf ears until Billie Jean King came along to stand up to the establishment.
Once a major tennis star of the 1950’s, Bobby Riggs struggled with being a notorious gambling addict, not to mention an egomaniac who, knowing of the friction between women and men in tennis, concocted an idea to prove women’s tennis would never have the draw power to fans, as do men. He also raised $100,000 as a cash prize to the winner, big bucks in those days. Resistant at first, Ms. King finally acquiesced to the challenge, determined to win, not for a winner-take-all pay check, but to advance the recognition that women athletes deserved.
It was during this time, that Billie Jean King unexpectedly struggled with her own sexuality, being a married woman who found herself drawn to another woman. While this was an important part of the Billie Jean King’s life story, however I thought the director gave it far too much emphasis during the first half of the picture.
Regardless, the climax would have brought any cheering stadium to their feet, as Billie Jean King rose to the occasion and set the stage for due recognition in professional women’s tennis that men athletes have always enjoyed. Her efforts, along with many other women stars of that period, ultimately led to the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) where stand-outs like Martina Navratilova, Stefi Graf and Serena Williams rose to dominate the sport.
Emma Stone is superb as Billie Jean King, as is Steve Carell portraying Riggs. I doubt this will be nominated for any Oscars (unless Emma Stone is recognized) but it’s a good true-life story about real struggles in real people.
Very good movie, I give it 8.0
For a more detailed history of the rivalry, and other tennis sex rivalries, click: