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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 ... Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
There may have been some slight deviations from the real events in part ...however, Carell does a fine job of recreating the 1-man flying circus that was Bobby Riggs and Emma Stone provides a fine performance as one of the most influential Americans of the last century. The history is well worth seeing again. One can only imagine the immense pressure on King at a time when women were paid a mere pittance in professional tennis compared to men regardless of the equality of ticket sales for men's and women's matches.. King took on an iconic institution ...organized ... and prevailed. She refused to be bullied and intimidated by USLTA (now USTA) overlord, Jack Kramer and anyone else who opposed equality.
For those who were intending to see a film entirely about one of the major sporting events in the last century...one tennis match watched by 90 million worldwide viewers in the US and 36 countries ....perhaps they would have preferred to see more about the wheeling and dealing that led to the epic in the Houston Astrodome and less about her personal relationships and coming to terms with her sexuality. Nonetheless, coping with all these pressures in the time period only added to the stature of Billie Jean King. Most other humans would have collapsed under the pressure. After all, Riggs had just beaten the world's #1 woman player in May quite easily, 6-2, 6-1. But King won the high-pressure match in 3 sets. And continued the battle for equality for all Americans. in Bobby Riggs defense, it was all an act for him. He loved women and actually he and Billie became good friends following the match until his death in 1995. For whatever complaints critics may have re the direction or writing etc...the telling of the story of this battle for economic and social justice...and for new audiences to gain awareness of what occurred in the 1970s about an event that captured the nation and took it by storm....well worth it!
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