In 1973, Billie Jean King forever changed the way women were treated as professional athletes when she beat Bobby Riggs while 90 million viewers tuned in from around the world. “Battle of the Sexes” isn’t a biopic about King’s life, but rather the most important and influential period in her life. Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (“Little Miss Sunshine”), “Battle of the Sexes” is a crowd pleasing dramatic-comedy that may wind up being one of the best films of 2017.
When the head of the Tennis Association, Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) refuses to give the women tennis players the same amount in prize money that the men get (even though women are selling just as many tickets), Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) decides to start her own tennis tournament. Not only that, but she brings along all the best women tennis players along with her. Organized by Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman), the new women’s tournament scores a cigarette company as a sponsor and now has funding.
Ex-men’s tennis champ and compulsive gambler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) sees an amazing opportunity here. He believes he can deliver one hell of a spectacle with a “Battle of the Sexes” match between him and King. King at first declines, but takes him up on the challenge after he beats Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) during a televised match.
Aside from the pressures King faces fighting for equality between men and women, she is also dealing new issues in her private life. Although, she loves her husband Larry (Austin Stowell), King has fallen for her hairdresser, Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough). The love triangle is a complex one as Larry remains supportive and understanding of his wife, even though he knows she has feelings for another.
There is so much to love about “Battle of the Sexes” but it is at its’ best when focusing on the on the two main players preparing for the big event. Stone and Carell are both fantastic here and Silverman delivers some of the funniest lines. It’s not too often that we get a film about an important time in our history that manages to actually be fun as well. “Battle of the Sexes” is one that shouldn’t be missed.
By: Marc Ferman