Battle of the Sexes

Adapted from the real live event when former US males tennis champion Bobby Riggs challenges world no.1 ladies champion Billie Jean King to a tennis match billed battle of the sexes to determine whether women could compete against the opposite sex.

It’s quite a challenge to build a film around a real life event where the outcome is already determined. But the story of Billie Jean King around this time is rather pivotal at this era as someone who had the weight of the world on her shoulders with starting a protest women’s tennis championship against the lack of equal pay for women’s tennis players, whilst dealing with the awakening of her sexuality that could throw all the work she has done into jeopardy. Really the story is about Billie Jean King but it’s Bobby Riggs who somewhat seems to have the more interesting character story in the film as perhaps he was in life. Bobby’s motivation is driven by a need to be remembered again having fallen into some sort of anonymity working for his wife’s father in an office. Bobby’s drive to create the event is born out of a gambling addiction he can’t get a hand on and in part his ego. Steve Carrell is great as Bobby and always the life of the party, loudest voice in the room, but he really does convey a sense of tragedy and sadness behind the exterior. It’s perhaps an easier role to play than Billie Jean King but I couldn’t help but feel there was some sort of spark missing with Emma Stone as her. Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are fantastic indie directors, Ruby Sparks, Little Miss Sunshine, but the charm behind those titles are not overly present here. The choice of film aesthetic as film also felt like a tired cliché to create a notion of authenticity. Not quite the original spectacle but an insightful reminder of the sexism shown against women tennis players with Steve Carell on fine form as usual.

★★★

Chris Aitken