Note: This is a spoiler-free Battle of the Sexes review
Sports has the ability to unite and create change. That is clear in our current climate. One of the pioneers of change through sports is Billie Jean King, who made equal pay and women’s rights mission while crushing the tennis world. Her match against Bobby Riggs epitomized that fight, and it’s a story that deserves to be told. Finally, it has.
Battle of the Sexes faults in some places, but overall does a nice job of bringing an important and difficult era to light for women’s sports and women’s rights.
For those who don’t know, The Battle of the Sexes is a 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs. What was going on behind the scenes is much bigger.
The acting is the strongest part of the film and really carries the movie. That shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Coming off an Oscar-winning performance for La La Land, Emma Stone is back and strong as ever in her follow-up.
Stone captures the strength, bravery, and conflict of Billie Jean King’s life during the 70s. The Battle of the Sexes itself was about much more than just tennis, and Stone does a great job of giving us a look at all aspects of King’s life. Billie Jean is the focal point of the movie, rightfully so, and Stone shines as the star.
On the other side of the net is Steve Carell’s portrayal of Bobby Riggs. Riggs is obviously a main part of the story, but he’s also a bit of comedic relief in Battle of the Sexes. That makes Carell really well cast for the role. He finds a way to mix comedy while also portraying some of the issues Riggs was dealing with in his life during the time, much like King.
The supporting cast is not to be overshadowed. Sarah Silverman is smart and witty as WTA logistics expert Gladys Heldman. Another really good job of casting in this case — Silverman is perfect in this role. Also, Bill Pullman is truly hateable as Jack Kramer. That’s a compliment when you obviously read this Bill, I swear. There is a clear antagonist in Battle of the Sexes, and Pullman bears that burden well.
A Flare For The Dramatic
While the acting is strong, the story is a bit lacking in Battle of the Sexes. Some of the story is sensationalized when it’s simply not needed. Billie Jean King’s story is transcendent enough without the need for too much Hollywood flare. The film would be a bit better served with more documentary feel mixed in throughout. There is some of this during the final match, which just left me wanting more.
The actual Battle of the Sexes match doesn’t come until about the final 20 minutes of the movie. This aspect of the film does a nice job portraying that the entire situation is about more than tennis. Just something to be aware of going in if you’re expecting a film about a tennis match.
Should I Go See Battle of the Sexes?
Battle of the Sexes is solid, but not theater-worthy. The acting shows strong, but everything else proves lacking. That said, the event itself is extremely important in sports history for Title IX, equal pay, and women’s liberation. I found myself sitting around people who didn’t know the result and erupted in cheer when King came out victorious. For that reason alone the movie is important to see at some point.