Billie Jean King is one of the favourite icons of women who like sports. To me, Billie Jean’s victory served as a huge example for those women who strive for equality and justice. While the critics further attacked King’s victory as it was done by a 29-year-old against a 55-year-old, the battle of the sexes is important because of the huge mark it left in history.
Eccentric tennis player and gambling addict Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell) challenges Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) to a tennis match which he described as a match between libbers vs lobbers. King initially denies the game but later on, she takes in the challenge when it was clear that things are at stake for women in sports.
Battle of the sexes takes place at a time when women were still under the shadows of men who think that women are not “strong” or “fun” to watch. At the same time, there is a repulsive attitude against people based on sexual orientation and preferences. Billie has to go through all that along with her rivalry with those who didn’t believe in her. And the film presents the rivalry part in a graceful yet trivial way. Billie’s rivalry is not with Bobby Riggs but with male chauvinism in a raw form. For her, Bobby is just a show and for Bobby, the match victory is just his way of getting more money for his gambling deeds. Billie had faced several drawbacks from being forced out of a union to getting enough sponsorship while many invested a lot for Riggs despite presenting himself as a showman. Though, Bobby’s advertising tactics were done brilliantly. But we know that Riggs is not the ultimate male chauvinist but the system they are living in including Jack Kramer who represents everything wrong in terms of a “progressive” man who can’t look or think beyond his narrow-mindedness. Billie Jean could make that out along with her sisterhood and she made sure that Kramer’s influence didn’t affect her game. In a way, Kramer and the conservatives are real chauvinists who can’t stand the idea of women coming to shoulder to shoulder with them. I wish Billie Jean played with defeated Kramer.
Emma Stone is fantastic in her role. She has improved a lot with each performance and this is undoubtedly the most progressive and powerful role in her filmography. I liked the way she changed her look, attitude and body language to look like Billie Jean King. She makes you believe that she is Billie Jean. Her determined and calm look during the match is on point and natural. Then we see her break down into tears, relieving herself of the pressure, at the same time, she is overwhelmed. The match is more just a victory for her, it is a massive turning point in the feminist revolution. The match looks real and believable though it is understood that some of the points were scored on purpose from Carrell’s side. Steve Carrell stuck to his standard. His nailed it in terms of both drama and comedy. Carrell is a versatile actor and he has proved that consistently from his performances in “Office” and “foxcatcher”. We also know for sure that Riggs is, in fact, a showman who simply want to gain from all the publicity or maybe he never considered women as inferiors, unlike Kramer who only respects women as long as they are in the kitchen or bedroom. Bill Pullman delivered a controlled performance. We will enjoy watching the disappointed look on Kramer’s face more than the match itself. Andrea Riseborough did her part well, though I kind of despised the infidelity angle of the story because Larry King is shown as a very sweet person who loved and respected Billie Jean.
The film gives you the essence and tone of the ‘70s along with the intensity of women’s rights movement. And we get to experience the tennis match the way it happened through the eyes of both male chauvinists, progressive men and women who get inspired after seeing Billie Jean’s game, like the waitress who watched the game with Kramer. Battle of the sexes is a film that you should watch at least once in your lifetime.