Battle of the Sexes (2017)

  • Time: 121 min
  • Genre: Biography | Comedy | Sport
  • Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
  • Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Elisabeth Shue, Andrea Riseborough


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.

One review

  • 2017’s Battle of the Sexes is my latest review. Based handily on a true story, “Sexes” depicts the events leading up to the famous 1973 tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. Battle of the Sexes also illustrates the match itself. Wooden rackets, short shorts, an audience of 90 million worldwide, a Houston Astrodome venue, it’s all there.

    In retrospect, “Sexes” is a good film but it doesn’t quite achieve greatness. It lacks excitement simply because Billie Jean’s routing of Riggs was sort of lopsided. All you gotta do is look at the wiki page and know who won beforehand. I was pumped to see this thing based on its meaty trailer with Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” blaring in the background. In the end though, anti-climatic and blase are some of the words I would use to deduct points from my rating for Battle of the Sexes. I will recommend this flick but it only wins half the “battle”.

    The strong elements for “Sexes” are obviously the acting of the cast and the direction of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine). Emma Stone and Steve Carell are excellent in the leads. They dive into their roles as King and Riggs with veritable aplomb. You also have sturdy supporting work in Sarah Silverman. She goes unrecognizable with the part of Gladys Heldman, the founder of World Tennis Magazine. As for the portrayal of Marilyn Barnett (Billie Jean’s hairdresser and secret lover), Andrea Riseborough is all aces (ha-ha) giving a warm and subtle performance. I can’t predict the future but I’m hoping that all four of these actors get nods from the Academy come awards time. It’s only September so yeah, that may hurt their chances.

    In regards to Dayton and Faris (mentioned earlier), well they shoot Battle of the Sexes in a flask, dream-like state. Their look is grainy, they use rack focusing, and “Sexes” almost achieves the feeling that you’re watching something that was actually made in the 70’s. The tennis scenes look authentic, the period detail is adequate, the awareness of time and place works, and there’s a sense that you’re always peering in on any trouper and their woman’s lib/male chauvinist situation.

    Overall, “Sexes” is not all about a tennis teeming. It’s really a character study and/or a backstory via the lives of Riggs and King in 73′. The outcome of their three sets featuring drop shots, volleys, and lobs, might have changed woman’s tennis for the better. But hey, where’s the fire here. A positive assessment for me but a muted result at best. Of note: I usually recommend movies that have historical gravity anyway. Rating: 3 stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

    Check out other reviews on my blog:

Write your review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *