This 1973 tennis match between women’s world champion Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-men’s-champ Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was billed as the Battle of the Sexes (12A). It was the match that sparked the women’s movement in sport and it became one of the most viewed televised sporting events of all time, reaching a whopping 90 million viewers around the world.
This is much more than a tennis match. It is one of the most compelling sports stories of all time but it’s more about these sports stars and the personal battles they have to go through alongside this head-to-head.
Stone is wonderful as Billie Jean. She plays the role in a very shy and reserved way but hits us with some real dramatic punches, especially in a scene right after the match where she really gives it her all in a very emotional display. She’s not only battling Bobby Riggs, she’s battling for equal rights for women and she’s battling her sexuality.
This was a very influential match that changed women’s sport. There were a lot of great scenes displaying the equality message, one powerful line of dialogue that stuck with me was when King called out a reporter after he said “men are just better”. She says: “Do you have a daughter, a sister, you must have a mother, is your father better than her because he’s a man?” “That’s what you’re saying even if you don’t know it.”
Carrell was terrific as Riggs. He deserves a lot of credit for his performance as he took a character that was considered unlikeable and made him sympathetic, someone we could root for even though we were pushed towards rooting for King. I thought he was brilliant and really showed he’s a tremendous dramatic actor.
One thing I will say that I wish they spent a little more time developing his relationship with his wife, played by Elisabeth Shue, as she felt kind of wasted with them only having a couple of scenes together.
The supporting cast are all great. Bill Pullman, who usually plays a likeable guy, was very unlikeable as the sexist Jack Kramer. Sarah Silverman steals scenes, as was expected, as the very funny Gladys Heldman and Riseborough delivers a very effective performance as King’s lover.
Although Stone and Riseborough’s chemistry was good, I felt like they spent way too much time on their relationship and unfortunately the message I got from it was that adultery is ok because she was exploring her sexuality. Don’t know if the director was going for that.
Overall, this was a solid movie. Great acting all round and the match itself was very riveting to watch. Some characters didn’t get as much attention as they should of and I felt like they could have cut some unnecessary scenes to shorten the run time of 121 minutes.
My rating: 6.5/10