"A Defining Moment"
A Review of "Battle of Sexes" by Nathan H. Box
Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, Writers: Simon Beaufoy, Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough
Rating: 4 Stars, SHOWTIME
In 1973, one of the most famous and important cultural events in American history played out on a tennis court between World #1, Billie Jean King and ex-champ, Bobby Riggs. Naturally, there was more to the story than what was witnessed on television. "Battle of the Sexes" attempts to raise the curtain on the major moments that delivered our two main characters to that most memorable day. In doing so, it reminds us the fight for equality is far from over.
Let it first be said that Emma Stone is becoming a force to be reckoned with in every single movie she appears. Her portrayal of Billie Jean King is raw, focused, and a different sandbox than she has been in before. In King, we see a woman who is a born advocate. Using tennis as her stage in the fight for equality, she rightly preaches a compassionate message that women can do anything men can do and should be treated as such. In the face of sexism, misogyny, and growing angst, she stood firm. Stone's embodiment of King takes you to the front lines of those battles and asks you to walk a mile in her tennis shoes.
Despite Stone's magical performance, my favorite character in this entire movie might be Gladys Heldman played by one of my favorite comedians, Sarah Silverman. She is irreverent, sharp as a tack, and determined to make King's dream come true. She stands as a testament to the simple truth that even the best among us need someone standing in our corner who believes as we do. Silverman embodies that person in every sense of the word.
What makes this movie truly great is the addition of King's own struggles with her sexual orientation. It gives the whole movie an intoxicating layer as she moves back and forth between the husband who has stood in her corner since the beginning and a woman who lets her be free and who she was always meant to be. Ultimately, the struggle and hiding become too much. King loses focus and her spot as the world's number one player. This leads Bobby Riggs to challenge the new number one first; a bit of information I didn't realize.
Bobby Riggs played by Steve Carell is not without his own challenges. He is a serial gambler and hustler. He finds himself at a job he can't stand, doing boring work, watching his glory days become smaller in the rearview mirror and to make matters worse his marriage is falling apart, His challenge to King may not be what he really believes but it is a role he chooses to play in an attempt to make money. His character is complex, flawed, and relatable to many American men.
As we arrive at the culminating point of the movie, King walks out onto a tennis court to face Riggs under the lights of the Astro Dome and with millions of people watching at home. With each step she takes, she walks alone but with the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of thousands of women on her back. As the match begins, it quickly becomes obvious this is a defining moment. Sure, it is sport and sport is a spectacle but this means more. Her victory was a giant leap forward for women, girls, and every woman not yet born. For that, we owe her a debt of gratitude for everything she did on and off the court.
Be good to each other,