Battle of the Sexes is a biographical sports film directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and written by Simon Beaufoy. It stars Emma Stone and Steve Carell and has Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Natalie Morales, Alan Cumming, Austin Stowell, Bill Pullman and Sarah Silverman in supporting roles.
The Story/The Direction:
The plot is loosely based on the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Stone) and Robert Larimore Riggs (Carell). This dramatization is able recreate the events leading up to match in a splendid fashion while also create an emotionally engaging story and be frequently funny. King, as a person, has been noted as monumental gift to women’s tennis as she fought for equality on the court. She removes herself from a tennis tour and starts her own with Gladys Heldman (Silverman) because the top prize for women is one-eighth of the men’s prize.
Direction by Dayon and Faris are able to take these events and put the audience right in the center of it all. This film takes place over forty years ago and some of the issues that King had to go through are still happening today. While the match itself is quite cartoonish, the events around it show the obvious parallels in the life of King and the other women tennis players.
Both of the film's stars are fantastic and look exactly like the real life versions. The film is Stone’s time to shine and while she may have won her first Oscar in La La Land, this film shows her acting prowess. She is able to capture the never collapsing King without losing her warmth and spirit that has made her so inspirational. Carell as Riggs is also able to glow as he looks exactly like Riggs. He is able to play up both the man with a gambling problem and chauvinistic pig. Ironically, he more reliant on his wife, Priscilla (Shue) than she is on him. This film is not trying to make him a villain but rather just a man with a problem. The standouts of the supporting cast are Silverman as Heldman, Morales as Rosie Casals, and Cumming is always fun to see on screen. He is able to make the most of the little time he has.
With a title such as this, this film would be thought to be more about the interactions between King and Riggs. However, this is far from the case and their interactions seem to only be a subplot. While this film does illuminate the difference between a superiority fight and trying to be equal, it does not dive into it as much as it should and plays it safe. Riggs seems to be taken off the hook for his misogyny and it was put on the promoter Jack Kramer (Pullman). Riggs also seemed more humanized and more clown-like than he should have been. In addition, this film does not show the impact of King’s relationship with Marilyn Barnett (Riseborough) on her career. The film tries to romanticize their relationship and make it a positive thing. In actuality, this relationship ended up being toxic and nearly destroyed it. Before 2017, it was legal for an employer to terminate someone due to their sexuality. After seven years, King ended her secret relationship with her and then Barnett outed King in 1981 when she sued her to which Barnett lost. It ended up keeping King playing tennis after she wanted to retire to pay for the lawyers. This became even harder when she lost sponsorships. This did happen after the events of the film however it was one of the most difficult parts of King’s life. Even more so, the film barely shows how homophobic the world was around them aside from a few lines of dialogue. What is the point of showing this part of her life if not to discuss the difficulty of this part of King’s life? This film only sugarcoats the story.
When watching this film, the audience will get a great and perhaps an Award nominating performance from Stone and another good one from Carell. However, this film only touches on King’s struggles as a lesbian and plays it safe on the inequality between women and men during the 1970's. The story of women equality is good but the LGBTQ aspects are lackluster. Unfortunately, this “battle” is one that is still happening today and this film does not hit as hard King did on and off the court. This film is not bad but it’s not great either as it somewhat diminishes King’s story. However, that does not take away from the enjoyable aspects of the good film and is one worth seeing at least once, if not more.
Rating: 3.5/5.0 bowties
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