Battle of the Sexes

posted 2 Jun 2018, 12:15 by Paul Woodward

Genre: Biography / Drama / Comedy

Stars: Emma Stone / Steve Carell / Andrea Riseborough / Sarah Silverman / Bill Pullman / Alan Cumming

Director: Jonathon Dayton / Valerie Faris

Certificate: 12A

Run Time: 2hr 1min

Year: 2017

This film centres around the build up to the infamous 1973 Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Although the film jumps between King’s life and Rigg’s it does tend to focus more heavily on King and principally her sexuality. It does show King as a pioneer battling for equality within the sport and forming the WTA but it’s her relationship with hairdresser Marilyn and her coming to terms with her sexuality that dominate the film.

The film falls a little flat for me, it’s ok, watchable and interesting, mainly for the history and an insight into Kings persona. It’s just not as engrossing or engaging as I would have liked. Emma Stone’s performance is spot on delivering a very sympathetic and likeable King. She was a pioneer and a feminist but not in an aggressive or unreasonable manner, she only spoke sense and much of what is said in the film can’t be argued with. It’s also very sympathetic towards King struggling with her sexuality and the conflict it inflicts on her life. Marilyn isn’t likeable at all so it’s hard to get behind her relationship with King – which the film pushes hard highlighting the forbidden love and how they couldn’t be together in public. But the way Marilyn is, how she pushes their relationship and makes King feel guilty all the while about not been open and honest with those around her – King was married at the time too something Marilyn dismisses easily, does not show her in a good light as she shows no frustration or guilt about it.

King’s husband on the other hand comes across as supportive and loving man, who is heartbroken but understanding about the situation. It makes you wish King would break off her relationship with Marilyn and make it up to him. This isn’t the point the film was trying to make though – it was about acceptance and been who we truly are. So, the film shoots and misses, not getting the point they wished across deflates the impact of the film.

Carell is his overexuberant self as the larger than life Riggs, who may have been seen as a sexist at the time but was according to the film just a businessman. The whole set up of playing women was purely a stunt to make money, through the media interest in what is essentially a circus and advertising. It was American tennis big wig Jack Kramer (ATP / ITF) who comes across as the true sexist as his beef with King intensifies throughout the film. Riggs is more of a secondary role in the film, and it’s his antics that brings most of the films humour.

If you’re a feminist or are gay or just have an interest in Tennis and its history it’s worth checking out. It’s a film that should have a deeper impact than it does but falls short on a couple of things which make it watchable but not anything special.


Review By Woody