Plot: After learning that the prize pools for women’s tennis would be dropping to 1/8th of the prizes the men would compete for, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) knew she had to take a stand. A new tour would be created, one that would offer higher prize pools and treat female players with respect. This would result in King being kicked out the pro tour and unable to compete in the grand slams, but with most of the top women on her new tour, she took the risk. At the same time, aging tennis pro Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) finds himself in need of a new score, as he has been bitten by the hustle bug once again. He has seen King on television, touted as the best of the women’s circuit and he also knows about her public cry for equal treatment. This sparks an idea for Riggs, who envisions a man vs. woman tennis match, a battle of the sexes on the court. At first, King refuses to take part, but after Riggs embarrasses a top female player, she agrees and the event turns into a huge media storm. As Riggs promotes and plays up the theme, King trains and prepares her mind, while coping with some personal issues. Who will win this battle of the sexes and what will happen in its wake?
Entertainment Value: Based on the real life event that captivated the world, Battle of the Sexes is a brisk, fun watch. The movie touches on some serious issues, but glosses over them for the most part, seeming to be content as simple fun. So yes, topics like gender equality and gay rights are featured, but the movie moves quickly to lighter moments in most cases. King’s narrative is treated as serious, while Riggs provides the comedic relief, though both had a lot invested in the actual event itself. Steve Carell is quite good as Riggs, in both look and performance. He captures the charisma of Riggs and makes it easy to understand how his hustles worked so well, he was a true showman and Carell conveys that well. King is played by Emma Stone, who is fine, but doesn’t turn in a memorable effort. The tone remains brisk most of the time, which perhaps limited her somewhat, but I can’t be sure. A huge supporting cast includes Bill Pullman, Tom Kenny, Sarah Silverman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Eric Christian Olsen, Andrea Riseborough, Fred Armisen, and numerous others. The movie is best when it presents the spectacle that follows Riggs, as it never wants to take a full turn toward serious, which is what King’s side of the narrative needed. So don’t expect depth, but Battle of the Sexes is still competent and fun to watch.
No nakedness. The movie has a sex scene but it is brief and shows very little, then Riggs poses in a humorous centerfold, but that’s all she wrote. No blood. This one has no violence whatsoever, so that makes sense. The issues are settled on the tennis court, so no need for wild brawls or what not. The dialogue is well written, but of course, Carell gets all the quotable lines as the colorful Riggs. His taunts toward the women’s movement are outlandish and part of his hustle, so he really goes over the top and hams it up. A role that Carell can shine in, given his skill when it comes to larger than life, over the top characters. The rest of the dialogue is fine, but Riggs is the only one who gets wild, memorable lines here. The craziness comes from Riggs again, with his odd antics and grand showmanship. The movie keeps things reeled in otherwise, but never goes full in on the real drama behind Riggs or King, so not too serious.
Overall Insanity: 1/10