Title: Battle of the Sexes Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris Year: 2017 Run time: 2hrs 1m
“The electrifying 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was billed as THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES and became the most watched televised sports event of all time. The match caught the zeitgeist and sparked a global conversation on gender equality, spurring on the feminist movement. Trapped in the media glare, King and Riggs were on opposites sides of a binary argument, but off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. With a supportive husband urging her to fight the Establishment for equal pay, the fiercely private King was also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, while Riggs gambled his legacy and reputation in a bid to relive the glories of his past. Together, Billie and Bobby served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis courts and animated the discussions between men and women in bedrooms and boardrooms around the world.”
2:14 - Literally within the sentence about higher pay for women, he then said “this little lady.” Oof. 5:45 - “It’s not your fault, it’s just biology.” That damned science. 6:16 - I like just saying ‘fact’ after everything. FACT. 9:15 - Playing tennis with dogs is a new one. 15:17 - I’ve never found the hairdressers relaxing or sexy. 18:32 - “That oughta perk up your lousy second serve.” 19:43 - Hold the phone, Billie Jean King was responsible for the colour in tennis outfits? Amazing. 29:15 - Think it’s presumptuous to take off someone else’s glasses on a first date. Glasses is precious. 37:18 - “You people aren’t here because you’re gamblers. You’re here because you’re terrible gamblers.” Interesting concept. 42:01 - It seems pretty inefficient for them all to go in separate cars. Where’s a tour bus when you need one? 47:29 - “A petite heads up…” 55:40 - “I’m just her husband, and you’re just a phase.” Ouch! 58:18 - The seventies clothes are starting to get to me. 59:50 - “I’m gonna be the best. That way I can change things. I can have a voice.” 1:14:16 - Can you bet on yourself like that? 1:22:28 - Aww, Larry is the actual best. 1:26:24 - “Do you remember the last time you thought I was bluffing?” 1:32:07 - The Astrodome! Off of Houston Astros. 1:47:08 - Love a film that ends with basically an entire tennis match. 1:53:21 - “Times change. You should know, you just changed them.”
This is the sort of story that you’re aware of - man versus woman on the tennis court - but you don’t really know the details that went on behind the glitz and glamour of a show match. Of course there’s Hollywood sensationalism in places, but the stakes are true: women’s equality and the battle against an entrenched view that men’s tennis is just better, versus a reputation and livelihood that’s in danger of being gambled away completely.
Stone does an incredible job of showing the pressure without crumbling, whilst also dealing with her own relationship dramas, and it’s also interesting to see the interplay between the women on the tour - you could almost get a whole other film out of King versus Court.
A great story, well told, that makes you care from start to finish. It’s easy to eye-roll at the blatant sexism on show, particularly from Kramer, but this is what they had to deal with and these were the barriers that needed to be broken through. Loved it.