“Battle of the Sexes,” a cinematic Grand Slam


The ’70s were a rambunctious and colorful time, full of innovation and discovery. While many minority groups fought for equality during the decade, issues like sexism and homophobia still persisted. The recent film, “Battle of the Sexes,” accurately reflects those social injustices through the portrayal of famous tennis players Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.

Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the movie revolves around the exhibition match between King (Emma Stone) and Riggs (Steve Carell). The directors avoid the match as the central point of the movie, and instead opt to focus on the lives of the players. Riggs endangers his marriage due to gambling addiction. King’s professional and personal life is at stake as she fights for women’s equality and struggles with her sexual orientation. By showing the fragile steps to beginning a relationship, the movie highlights a topic many other films avoid.

King’s first time meeting her future partner, Marilyn Barnett (portrayed by Andrea Riseborough). Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

With close-up shots of King interacting with her partner, I felt the intimacy and connection between these two. Similarly, as directors Dayton and Faris adjust the audio up and down during sequences of the two, a feeling of understanding and recognition was emphasized. In contrast, the more action-filled scenes, like the final match between King and Riggs, had a strong, “we’re here to get things done” tone. I enjoyed the colorful scenery, bold camera angles and fast-paced music interwoven in the storyline. The stunning visuals and stirring soundtrack combine to form an emotional film that captures the pressure King endured as a trailblazer.

The creation of the WTA.
Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

Being a tennis player myself, I know a lot about the history of professional tennis. However, the movie exposed me to the smaller details I hadn’t known before. For instance, it showed me how much opposition there was to the establishment of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). The film also revealed how blatant sexism was during the time, how it differs from today and how some things still haven’t changed.

“Battle of the Sexes” does a breath-taking job of presenting the sexism in the ’70s while still telling a compelling personal story. Billie Jean King’s confidence and determination played brilliantly by Emma Stone made me want to stand up and cheer. This film is a Grand Slam.

Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs at a press conference prior to the exhibition match. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.