The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.
In the early 1970s, when feminism was hard because it was not a culturally accepted status, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) takes up the cause for female athletes. Ranked as the #1 women’s tennis player at the time, she faces tennis promoter, Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), who insists on paying male tennis players 8 times more than the female players.
His reasons? They’re stronger, they have more endurance, they’re more entertaining, they bring in the crowds. Refusing to play according to those terms, King and a handful of other female tennis players go out on their own to run their own tournament, sponsored by Virginia Slims.
Meanwhile, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), former men’s tennis champion and serial hustler, adds charm and comedy to the story with his pervasive gambling and skilled – though ridiculous – antics on the tennis court with his buddies. He’s 55 years old but has all the enthusiasm and maturity of a 15-year-old boy.
King and her merry band of rebel tennis players are getting more attention and suddenly Riggs spots an opportunity to hustle a deal and put himself back on the tennis scene…by playing into the heyday of feminism versus chauvinism. Thus, his brainchild of a tennis match between himself, a former male champion, and the current #1 ranked women’s player is born: Battle of the Sexes.
The film depicts both the historical accuracy and the historical ridiculousness of what was really being battled over through this match, the most-watched televised sports event of all time. On one hand, it’s about female tennis players fighting to be equally valued and paid. But, more than that, the film tells the story of one woman’s influence for so many women to be who seen as equally valuable contributors to society…beyond just the kitchen and the bedroom.
Also, there is one more layer that perhaps even King herself did not anticipate in her fight for equality. She faces personal challenges in love and marriage that are both daring, compelling, and alarming. While we can easily know the outcome of this historical match before we head to the theaters, this more personal aspect of King’s story will undoubtedly have you aching for and also fearing discovery. Be sure to stay for the post-story at the end of the film; you will be delighted by the true heroes, both male and female, in this unique, but powerful depiction of the many hard-fought battles for equality.
Now available on Blu-ray & DVD