Battle of the Sexes, rated PG-13
Starring Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Elisabeth Shue
Austin Family Critical Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Austin Family Family-Friendly Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Two of the most likeable movie stars around, Emma Stone and Steve Carell, star in Battle of the Sexes, the new film from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who gave us Little Miss Sunshine (2006) over a decade ago.
This new film is a recreation of a famous tennis match between Billie Jean King (Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Carell) in 1973, when the world was changing considerably and the women’s liberation movement was in full swing. At the time, King was a World Champion tennis player, while Riggs, a former champion whose glory days were back in the 1940s, was busy playing the role of male chauvinist. As the films opens, he challenges King to a match in an attempt to prove that male athletes are superior to female athletes.
To call Riggs a showboat would be an understatement, and Carell demonstrates his brilliant skills as a comedian here in many of his character’s over-the-top stunts on the tennis court. But the real story is King’s attraction to women, and the life she was unable to live openly for so long because of the social mores of the time. She also comes up against her fair share of sexism from the establishment tennis world, which makes her all the more determined to defeat Riggs.
I found Battle of the Sexes particularly entertaining because I had no idea if King or Riggs ultimately won the match. I imagine this won’t be the case for many adults who were alive at the time, but for those of us who weren’t, Battle of the Sexes is a lively, entertaining snapshot of a moment in time. The film addresses a lot of issues that are more than relevant today, but never in a heavy-handed way. Stone and Carell are both absolutely terrific – and, as evidenced by real-life pictures of the two tennis stars – uncanny in their resemblances to King and Riggs.
Battle of the Sexes has some sexual themes that may make it inappropriate for viewers under the age of 13. However, teenagers should be able to appreciate (and learn from) what this movie has to say about gender politics in recent American history.
Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.