Having just won the US Open, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) was the queen of women’s tennis. When she learns that Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), head of the US Lawn Tennis Association, has set the women’s prize for an upcoming tournament at a fraction of the men’s, she does not take it well. Billie Jean decides to try something revolutionary.
With the founder of World Tennis Magazine, Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman), by her side Billie Jean sets out to make a women’s only tour. Jack Kramer threatens to eject the women who join the tour from the USLTA. The women, including Rosie Casals (Natalie Morales), Jane “Peaches” Bartkowicz (Martha MacIsaac), Martha Court (Jessica McNamee), Judy Dalton (Fidan Manashirova), Julie Heldman (Bridey Elliott), Kerry Melville (Kaitlyn Christian), Kristy Pigeon (Ashley Weinhold), Nancy Richey (Lauren Kline), and Valerie Zeigenfuss (Mickey Sumner) sign on to Billie Jean’s women’s circuit.
While watching the women play, former tennis star, now on the senior circuit, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) decides he wants to play Billie Jean to show men are superior tennis players. When she refuses, he convinces Martha Court to take him up on his offer. When Bobby defeats Martha, Billie Jean has no choice but to play Bobby to show the world that women are to be taken seriously.
Inspired by the actual tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, Battle of the Sexes shows everything that lead up to the historic match.
The casting for this film could not have been more perfect. Emma Stone is able to showcase both Billie Jean’s on court and off court personalities. As her husband (played by Austin Stowell) says, tennis is her life. All she wants is for women to get the same respect men get – in sports and in life. Stone is able to seamless switch between Billie Jean’s personalities, whether it is her tenacity and determination towards the world of tennis, or in the moments between Billie Jean and her hairdresser/lover (an excellent performance by Andrea Riseborough). Sarah Silverman adds just the right touch of wit and sarcasm to her character. She serves both as the crucial tour promoter and comic relief. Steve Carell not only looks the part of Bobby Riggs, but he is able to highlight Riggs’ over the top theatrics and male chauvinism. The rest of the star-packed cast make for a well-rounded, well acted film.
The film is about much more than just a tennis match between one of the greatest tennis players and the man trying to make a mockery of women’s tennis. Billie Jean’s focus was on more than just a sport. She sought equal treatment of women. The brave women who abandoned their safety net to join Billie Jean’s cause deserve to be applauded. They signed on to the women’s circuit with the promise of a $1 salary and no initial sponsors. The men who dominated the sports world looked on them as a joke and hoped for their failure. Much is owed to Billie Jean and the group of women who believed in what she was trying to do.
Battle of the Sexes is more than just an enjoyable, well crafted film. It is also an important story to be told. Whether you see it in the theater or at home, watch it with your wife, girlfriend, daughters, any women in your life. They deserve it.