Battle of the Sexes
Review by Myla Tosatto
2017 has been a stellar year for powerful women in film: Bell in Beauty and the Beast, Diana in Wonder Woman, Lorraine in Atomic Blonde ,Twilight Sparkle in My Little Pony: The Movie, and now Emma Stone portraying the real life powerhouse Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. Billie Jean King was arguably the most famous woman in sports until perhaps the Williams sisters showed up. Battle of the Sexes is the story about her tennis match as a feminist icon vs. the manic hustler, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell); both champions of their respective sports, both struggling with their inner demons.
The movie is a “sports” movie with an art house flair. It follows the route of a Rudy or a Remember the Titans but it feels like a much smaller, intimate film. The directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are the team that brought us the great Little Miss Sunshine. The writer, Simon Beaufoy, wrote such memorable movies as Slumdog Millionaire and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
This is a movie that is pretty much made for everyone. It is rated PG-13 . It is a perfect date night movie that could lead to an interesting discussion afterwards. It would be great to take your older kids to teach them about the history of sports, sexism and female empowerment. Of course, it is a fun movie to view along with your girlfriends so that Billie Jean and her team mates Rosie (Natalie Casals), Peaches (Martha Mac Isaac), and Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) can inspire you to greatness.
WARNING: To quote a popular Virginia Slims cigarette ad (original sponsors of the Women’s Tennis Association that Billie Jean King founded), “You’ve come a long way, baby”. However, women haven’t come that far and parts of the movie may send you into a rage stroke. Recordings of the popular, mild mannered Howard Cosell set me off, for example. I can’t believe that the words of the universally beloved man were so sexist. Thank goodness the battle finished like it should have.
In the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women’s movement, the 1973 tennis match between women’s world champion Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-men’s-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was billed as the BATTLE OF THE SEXES and became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time, reaching 90 million viewers around the world. As the rivalry between King and Riggs kicked into high gear, off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. The fiercely private King was not only championing for equality, but also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, as her friendship with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) developed. And Riggs, one of the first self-made media-age celebrities, wrestled with his gambling demons, at the expense of his family and wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue). Together, Billie and Bobby served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis court, sparking discussions in bedrooms and boardrooms that continue to reverberate today.
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