Movie Review: Battle of the Sexes

The title may suggest that this is some frat vs sorority driven comedy, but it’s nothing like that. Battle of the Sexes tells the real-life story of tennis legend Billie Jean King and her fight for equality that lead to an epic tennis match between her and retired men’s star Bobby Riggs. The story takes place in the early 70’s, well before my time. I found myself surprised that as a fairly big sports fan I didn’t know anything about this tennis showdown prior to seeing the movie. I learned a lot and was also entertained in the meantime. Here is how the movie stacks up.


As touched upon above, the film depicts the the events that lead to the 1973 male vs female tennis match/public spectacle between Riggs and King. That’s what’s on the surface and promos, but the film has a lot more depth and importance to it, with the match serving as more of a backdrop further into the movie.

It’s really about the struggle to gain acceptance that female athletes and civilians had to endure. From bullying to unfair compensation, this time in society wasn’t pleasant to women and people of color. Aside from the public stance for equality, the film delves into the private life and struggle King has with her sexuality.



Emma Stone and Steve Carell are fantastic. The strong supporting cast is rounded out with very talented actors. When it comes to Stone, it’s clear she’s entered another level in her acting career. She was terrific in La La Land and earned her Oscar, but her role playing Billie Jean King might be an even better performance from her. There is a lot that Stone shoulders. She manages to balance the public version of King and the private one, which appear to be two different people. In public, King appears to be a spokeswoman that flashes her smile and puts on a happy face. In private, she has the weight of the world on her as she tries keeping her marriage intact while attempting to allow herself to explore her interest in women. Not to mention Stone’s uncanny transformation to resemble King makes her the ideal casting for this role.


On the other hand, Carell plays the wacky and volatile Riggs. Carell is a dead-ringer for Riggs. The look is unmatched, but more importantly he captures the spirit of who Riggs was. He is a firecracker in this role. His character is amusing, over-the-top, at times charming and a surefire male chauvinistic pig. He manages to capture all those traits and bring them to light. Riggs isn’t necessarily portrayed like a bad guy, but he sure does appeared to be ignorant. Carell knocks it out-of-the-park. A fabulous performance.

The work of Andrea Riseborough can’t be overstated, who plays King’s not-so-secret love interest Marilyn Barnett. Riseborough subtly delivers a strong performance. She’s the glue of the film, both in her acting and the character she plays. Other notable performances come from Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman (a character you will despise, at least the audience at the screening did) and Elisabeth Shue.



The look is fitting of the time period the story takes place in. The color palates and projection boasts the grainy 70’s appearance. The costumes and character appearance helped making the era come alive, male mustache and sideburns galore. The sounds come into play once the tennis matches start. Then the sounds of the tennis balls hitting the rackets put you in a drivers seat to witness the action.


Battle of the Sexes was a lot more entertaining than I expected it to be. The movie balances some important societal themes along with the tennis element. I found myself to be more engaged and interested in the person that King was behind-the-scenes. The inner battle she fought in contrast with the outer public one. King was a feminism activist that happened to love tennis. That’s the message this movie relays. The acting of Carell and Stone make their characters personalities seem larger than life. That in itself was entertaining enough.




Battle of the Sexes is both educational and entertaining, a fine mix that’s isn’t always achieved in a film that sets out to do that. The performances are excellent all-around. The film has a great flow. Even though it’s a biopic that’s set in the 70’s, it uniquely has a timely feel to it in relation to the current political and social landscape. There is a Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton feel in the Riggs vs King feud. The mean spirited chauvinist Riggs in the role of Trump, while King embracing the more mature and confident role that Clinton seemed to have. Watch it and see if you can take away any comparisons from it.


The biggest drawback this movie may have is the promotion of it. It’s Bobby vs Billie tennis battle of sexes in the promos, but the movie is a lot more than that. The younger generation might find the movie hard to relate to and not invest any interest in the topic due to their unfamiliarity of it. Hopefully Emma Stone is enough of a draw to get everyone to come out and see this.

Battle of the Sexes is a movie that will make you cheer and feel empowered, whether you’re a woman or man. In a time of year where award season movies start coming out, this may be the first one to get some awards consideration. Certainly, Stone and Carell for their splendid work, but also the film itself.

  • Movie Rating: PG-13
  • Runtime: 2 hr 1 min
  • Genre: Biography, Drama, Sport
  • Release Date: Friday, September 22, 2017

‘BATTLE OF THE SEXES’ SCORE: 85% (Mandatory Trip To The Theater, Potential Awards Contender)

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