Men vs. Women…and a naked man holding a tennis racquet!
BQB here with a review of “Battle of the Sexes.”
It’s the 1970s and women’s lib is all the rage. Women are burning their bras as tools of oppression against their jugs and telling men to make their own sandwiches. Really, it was anarchy.
Amidst this backdrop, tennis legend Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) becomes a feminist folk hero when she defies tennis great Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) by leaving the already established women’s tennis league and leading fellow female players to create their own, all over a pay dispute as women players were paid much less than their male counterparts.
Meanwhile, washed up, formerly great tennis pro Bobby Riggs is now in his mid-fifties. He’s found a new life with a beautiful and rich wife Priscilla (Elizabeth Shue who, sidenote, gave this reviewer one of his first boners and continues to do so even though she’s getting up there in years).
You’d think that would be enough, but Bobby is bored. He misses his heyday, a time where he drank, partied, lived it up and gambled…so much gambling. Unlucky for Bobby, Priscilla does not approve of his gambling and has made it known that he needs to either settle down or lose her.
Long story short, Bobby, seeking a second chance at fame and fortune, challenges Billie Jean to a “battle of the sexes” – man vs. woman on the tennis court. He hams it up for screen, telling women they need to get back in the kitchen, make his dinner, etc.
I won’t spoil it any further but suffice to say, good writing usually makes the audience root for both opponents. Billie Jean feels she can’t stand idly by as this dummy makes a mockery of the women’s lib movement. As for Bobby, what begins as a chance to grab the attention he craves turns into a quest to prove this his wife that it’s ok for him to gamble and live large and engage in get rich quick schemes because he’s really, really good at them. Bobby makes this point known at a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting where he tells a bunch of down and out degenerates that their problem isn’t that they’re gamblers but that they are bad gamblers. Bobby’s schemes make money and therefore he thinks he should be acclaimed as a hustler, not a mere gambler.
SIDENOTE: Sarah Silverman turned my head as Billie Jean’s manager, Gladys. If Sarah could drop the whole “I say dirty things in a sweet voice” act (as she does here), there might be bigger roles in more serious films for her.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Between Billie Jean wanting to be accepted by the public without having to keep her sexual preference a secret and Bobby wanting to be accepted by his wife as the larger than life big mouthed baller that he is, the movie has a lot to say about the boxes life places us in, how we have to do backflips to prove ourselves and get out of them and overall, wouldn’t it be great if the world we just let us all live as we choose?