Battle of the Sexes – An entertaining and likeable dramatisation of an iconic sporting event

Posted on 16 December 2017
By Roisin Gordon
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Battle of the Sexes explores the very relevant topic of fighting for gender equality, by exploring the dramatisation of the infamous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.

It proves to be an interesting look at an iconic sporting event and two equally talented tennis players, which are fuelled by its performances from their two likeable leads.

A central narrative of the film is Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) campaigning for gender equality in tennis, when she learnt that the women’s top prize for an upcoming tournament is one eighth of what the men would earn and is told that men’s tennis is a bigger draw for audiences.

Instead of continuing to play along with their rules, King leaves the male-dominated Lawn Tennis Association and along with promoter Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman), they form the Women’s Tennis Association and embark on their own women’s only tour.

Meanwhile, former tennis champion Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell) is shown to be leading a much different life. He is working in a dead-end office job and his marriage has become strained due to his gambling addiction.

Looking for a way to reclaim his former glory, he hits upon the idea for a challenge match against the top female tennis player, boasting that he would win. This then culminates into what has become a moment of history in tennis.

Directors, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton have delivered a fantastic biopic that is both an entertaining yet interesting dramatisation of the iconic sporting event. They bring the all too familiar topic of gender equality and sexism to light, and you find yourself drawn into the world of two equally talented but very different tennis players.

The build-up to the match between King and Riggs is the most fascinating part of the story, as we see how the two players contrast in personality, with Bobby Riggs being boastful and larger than life, and Billie Jean King being more focused and reserved.

It was also interesting to see how they both approached the media surrounding the upcoming big game. Bobby Riggs flaunts himself towards the media by goading some of the best female tennis players into competing with him, by claiming he would win against them.

On the other hand, Billie Jean King is shown to be less focused on bashing her competitor and more determined to put all her effort and focus into the upcoming game.

Emma Stone does a superb job of portraying the reserved yet tenacious Billie Jean King, as she shows determination to bring justice for gender equality and despite being faced with sexism, she doesn’t let that stop her from fighting for what she believes in, as well as her dedication towards the sport.

In addition to her fierceness, Stone also does a brilliant job at displaying a much more conflicted side, when Billie Jean King begins an affair with her hairdresser and becomes torn between her new feelings and loyalty towards her husband.

Steve Carrell is highly entertaining as the brash Bobby Riggs, as you find yourself charmed by him despite his flaws. Whilst he does display his usual comedic talents in this role, he also brings great sincerity in his dramatic scenes, especially in the scenes between him and his wife.

Battle of the Sexes is a likeable biopic that deals with contemporary subject matters, with endearing performances from its two leads.

Purple Revolver rating: 4/5