Emma Stone Steve Carell Andrea Riseborough Sarah Silverman Bill Pullman Alan Cumming Elisabeth Shue
This was a full-blown battle, made more public by the macho boasting of Bobby Riggs for weeks beforehand. It was a contest with a winner-take-all prize of $100,000. By the time the match between him and Billie Jean King took place, they had an audience of 50 million in the U.S. and 90 million worldwide, with 30,472 present in the Houston Astrodome. King was passionate in proving that women’s tennis was just as important/entertaining/professional as men’s, and that they should be paid the same. Male chauvinism was common in the 1970’s, so men were aghast that women should expect such a thing, saying men were stronger, faster, and better than women who were weaker and “couldn’t stand the pressure.”
All this seemed to spur King on even more; she was still stinging from Jack Kramer’s (a former tennis star and radio commentator, smoothly played by Bill Pullman) banning women from a major tournament when they demanded to be paid on the same scale as the men. Later, when Riggs and ABC wanted Jack to be the commentator for the Riggs/King match, King protested, and threatened to withdraw from the contest unless they hired someone else, reasoning that Jack did not believe in women’s tennis. “Either he goes—or I go.” She got her way.
The match is filmed extremely well by cinematographer Linus Sandgren, starting out slower so each lob is carefully shown, and gradually speeding it up to real time, and the music is well chosen by Nicholas Britell. With a filmography that includes movies about Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M., and Smashing Pumpkins, the directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris likely had some informed input for the music as well. Although I enjoyed the music immensely, it was often too loud for my ears, overpowering the drama and dialog.
Emma Stone and Steve Carell demonstrate their considerable talent in portraying two colorful characters. Carell’s Bobby is as obnoxious and full of himself as he is supposed to be, which is in stark contrast to Carell as I’ve seen him in real life. I was especially moved by King as she is shown in the film and beautifully exemplified by Stone; always dignified, magnanimous enough to initiate the arms-around-the-shoulders exit at the end of the match, and keeping her cool amidst rude taunts and tense negotiations.
There were a couple of scenes that made me shake my head (a last-minute hair fix just before the major event and Billie Jean King by herself at the end of the match), and sure enough, these seem to be Hollywood elaborations on the real story. They are unnecessary veneers to a story that is already sufficient in itself.
Battle of the Sexes exemplifies the ongoing struggle between males and females, but in an entertaining manner.