In 1973, the world witnessed one of the most epic tennis games ever played when Billie Jean King took on Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes. At the time it broke attendance and viewership records and it captured the hearts of tennis fans across the world. But more importantly, the Battle of the Sexes provided the foundation for equality for women, not just in sport.
This is the story that is brought to life in the dramatized version of Battle of the Sexes. The film tells the story from both individuals on opposite ends of the court. It chronicles the rise of Billie Jean King in tennis, as well as the former tennis champ turned hustler, Bobby Riggs and the events that led up to the historic tennis match.
Directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris should be credited in providing an equal playing ground for both characters to reveal their backstory. There isn’t a true villain in this film but there is certainly a heroine, which is why King’s story takes prominence in the film.
Battle of the Sexes not only chronicles her efforts in championing the women’s game and the setting up of the WTA but also how she embarked on changing the mind-set of the powers that be.
Riggs also gets a fair shake in this film, which is masterfully fleshed out by Carrell. A hustler and gambler, the former tennis champion carved a reputation for being a cunning showman. Despite his male chauvinistic pig persona that he channelled in front of the camera, Riggs at the heart of it call was a sports entertainer who wanted nothing more than to put on a good show.
Nevertheless, there are certain liberties taken with Battle of the Sexes, most of which are centred on the sexuality of Billie Jean King. A prominent figure of the LBGT movement, a substantial portion of the film is centred on the tennis star discovering her sexuality in the film. In some aspects it does stray away from the integral part of the storyline, which is that epic man vs woman tennis match.
Fortunately though, the directors manage to course correct the film by the third act, allowing the story of both combatants to fully come to a head. What ensues finally is a gripping tennis match pitting two opponents that both harboured hopes and ambitions as well as their own demons.
Like an entertaining grand slam final, Battle of the Sexes serves up a healthy dose of drama, fun and edge-of-the-seat sports action. Being given the opportunity to relive that part of history on the big screen is more than worth the price of admission for this movie.
Popcorn Rating: Tasty