With the recent US Tennis Open win of Sloan Stephens and the Ava Duvernay doc Venus VS, one can’t help but wonder if any of this would be possible without tennis legend Billie Jean King. The fact that women and the LGBTQ community are still trying to get equal pay and rights speaks to the sad state of affairs society is currently living.
In 1973, the 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 and boardrooms that continue to reverberate today.
Steve Carellcompletely captures the ring-master, warp-speed talking persona of Bobby Riggs to perfection! It’s dizzying to watch him maneuver and manipulate everything and everyone in his life for one more round at being the champ once more. Emma Stone captures the subtle nuances of Billie Jean King and is giving yet another stellar Oscar worthy performance as the women’s lib tennis pro.
The total disrespect and disdain for women trying to excel in sports is brilliantly on display in scenes with Bobby Riggs and his tennis buddies, as well as, overtime BJK had to encounter former tennis pro and executive Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman). Some beautiful and tasteful scenes illustrating those moments when King’s husband discovered she was having an affair, when Marilyn realized tennis was Billie Jean’s first love and the internal, constant struggle Billie Jean had trying to keep a lid on her sexuality.
Huge thanks to Fox Searchlight for inviting me to rock the carpet, attend the premiere and grab a tennis lesson from Emma’s tennis coach for the film Vince Spadea. Take a look at all the fun, which happened to all occur on my birthday…YAAYYYY!!!!
On my way out of the premiere, I haphazardly ran into the editor, Pamela Martin, who shared that the brilliance of Emma Stone looking like a real tennis pro is mostly attributed to digital editing and a fantabulous stunt double (who Emma give props to as well) . That famous tennis match on film is an exact replica of original footage including match point highlights and the final serve.
It’s absolutely terrifying to see how timely this film is and that women are “still fighting the good fight”. The LGBTQ community are still frowned upon inside some sectors of society. The good news here is the universe gave us Bille Jean King, who in spite of her own consequences was dedicated to fighting for future generations of women or any group of people who are viewed as less than.
Battle of the Sexes, produced by Fox Searchlight, can be seen in theaters nationwide TODAY, September 22nd. You will be inspired, moved and empowered after seeing this film. Hell, I’m actually about to start playing tennis…Thanks Billie Jean!