Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are back with their latest movie Battle of the Sexes, starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell. It focuses on the true story of the 1973 tennis match between world number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs. And it’s strange because on the one hand, you could look at the 70’s as a time where people were really starting to express themselves. The spirit of expression was becoming increasingly evident each day, you could almost feel the electricity in the air, but society still seemed to be sort of backwards on subjects such as equal rights for women.
Billie Jean King came to realise at the height of her sporting career that female tennis players were being paid substantially less for major events, despite selling the same exact amount of tickets. Once she began to question this she was more or less brushed off with the argument that men are physically superior, thus more entertaining to watch. Now most women back then would have just accepted it and walked away with a bitter taste in their mouth, but not Billie Jean King. She wholeheartedly believed she could make a difference and throughout the film, she comes off as someone who was way ahead of their time and isn’t that just the kind of person you need to spark a revolution.
So Billie Jean King is of course, played here by Emma Stone and can I just say that for me she completely disappeared into her role and there’s no better compliment for an actor or actress than that. I have tremendous respect for Emma Stone and her career so far, it’s getting to the point where I’m wondering whether it’s even possible for her to do a bad movie. Steve Carrell was also excellent as Bobby Riggs and I feel that it would have been quite easy for the film to completely demonise his character, but the film never seems to push an agenda and I think that’s what I enjoyed about it the most.
Yes okay while Bobby Riggs may have spouted chauvinistic comments left, right and centre, you very much got the impression that he was a showman, that he was putting on an act. He didn’t necessarily believe every word coming out of his mouth, but he was extremely gifted when it came to getting others to believe in him. Throughout the film, you see just how dependent he is on his wife and when she’s not around he almost seems kind of pathetic and in a bizarre way you find yourself really starting to empathise with him. He wasn’t a bad person by any means, he just loved to gamble and there’s actually a terrific scene at a kind of gambling addicts anonymous meeting where he turns around to everyone there and says “You’re not here because your gamblers, you’re here because your terrible gamblers and the real problem is that you just need to get better at it”.
But like I said the film really tries to make it hit home that everything Billie Jean King stood for back then was about equality and not superiority. She didn’t want to hurt anyone and she didn’t want to be put up on a pedestal either, she just simply wanted to live her life without constantly being short changed and told what she can and cannot do. I thoroughly enjoyed Battle of the Sexes and if it’s still showing in a cinema near you I would definitely recommend giving it a watch. 8/10