The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.
Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Stars: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Elisabeth Shue
Closed Captioning and Descriptive Narration Available.
Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) is a tennis champion, but her real battle lies off the court. Women in the sport earn far less prize money than men, and she can’t let that stand. The crowds cheer just as loudly for women, so why shouldn’t they be paid just as much?
Tournament honcho Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) disagrees, arguing that male players deserve more money because they’re more exciting to watch and because they’re breadwinners. When King counters that she’s the breadwinner in her household, Kramer just scoffs. So she breaks away from Kramer and creates a tour of her own — alongside female players who are also fed up with the sexism.
King is less enthusiastic about taking to the court opposite Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), a tennis pro who’s past his prime — but who boasts that no woman can beat him. It’s unclear whether Riggs’ chauvinism is legitimate or simply part of his shtick. But King declines his offer to compete for $100,000 in prize money — until circumstances demand that she rise to the occasion.
It’s 1973, and this match between a 29-year-old woman and a 55-year old man will go down in history as not only a pivotal moment in sports, but in feminism.
The fact-based “Battle of the Sexes” is being marketed as a feel-good sports comedy, but there’s much more going on in this hugely entertaining and Oscar-worthy film. Working from a screenplay by Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”), co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”) examine the making of the King-Riggs match to comment on just how much American culture has — and hasn’t — changed in only 44 years. The film’s portrayal of a smart but controversial woman who’s forced to face off against a showboating clown may strike some viewers as eerily familiar.
Stone persuasively gets inside King’s skin, and Carell somehow makes Riggs both loathsome and likable.
This is mainstream filmmaking at the top of its game.
-Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch