In 1973, a professional American tennis player Billie Jean King faced off against former professional American tennis player and known hustler Bobby Riggs in a tennis match that would change the course of women’s history, popularly known as the Battle of the Sexes.
In 2017, King’s legacy is revisited in the film of the same name, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Through this remarkably historically accurate film, viewers can relive the challenges women faced during that time period.
“Battle of the Sexes” does not hold back when it comes to showing the unfair treatment of women by men during the 1970s. In fact, the first scene of the film includes lines like “the men are just more exciting to watch” and “it’s not your fault; it’s just biology.” Starting off with no reservations gives a certain power to the film that wouldn’t have been conveyed with a different opening.
The camera work in this film is particularly conducive to setting the tone for each scene. There is this concept throughout the movie of looking through windows, giving the impression of looking but not truly seeing someone for who they are and understanding the place from where they are coming. Going into it, I was worried that the camera work would bounce roughly back and forth like eyes following the ball at a tennis match, but there was a lot more over-the-shoulder, third-person shots that allowed for fluid scenes that kept the viewer in the know at all times.
The most notable thing about this film is the characters. Throughout the movie, one gets the sense that it’s not really about the tennis match at all. Dayton and Faris placed King’s personal journey at the front, which made the film feel more honest and true to life. Through her experimentation with her sexuality, we see a soft side of King that makes her vulnerable and relatable, showing that she is more than just a famous athlete.
It’s often difficult to critique biography films because one must consider the fact that these are real people, not just characters on a screen. However, Steve Carell brilliantly brings to life the dislikable and misogynistic Bobby Riggs in a way that is positively disturbing.
He is portrayed in a way that is both comical and sad. While his outrageous schemes bring about a good chuckle, his home life and gambling addiction humanize him. These scenes make viewers sympathize with him because even a disgusting man like Riggs has a heart, although you may not feel this way later when he starts spitting out vulgar and sexist comments toward women.
You don’t have to be a tennis fan or even know anything about the sport to get caught up in the action and suspense of the match itself. While there could have been more tension leading up to it (specifically more of King’s internal conflict), the match was tense and kept you wondering who was going to win, which is tough to do when dealing with such widely known historical events as this.
This film does an excellent job of bringing back around the overarching idea of equality for all, not just women, but people of all genders, sexualities, races, etc. It would be nice to think that the issues for which King was fighting equal pay and respect for women—are a thing of the past, but unfortunately, they are still quite relevant today.
The release of this film could not have been more timely. It reminds people that this is an issue that has been going on for far too long, but one person truly can make a difference and change the course of h istor y