The first year that the winners of the women’s and men’s singles tournaments in Wimbledon were awarded the same prize money was 2007. Now imagine what it was like to be a female tennis player in the 70s, and be awarded a lot less than a male tennis player. Battle of the Sexes is loosely based on a real-life tennis match in 1973 between two sporting superstars in the US. When Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) discovers the prize money for the US men’s tennis singles competition is around eight times higher than the prize for the women’s singles, she isn’t quiet about her outrage. Her criticisms give rise to comments from sports fans and commentators that say men deserve more money, and she quits the tennis tournament and promises to organise an all-female championship instead.
Diminished tennis champion Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) hears all about this, and decides to get back his 15 minutes of fame by challenging King to a tennis match to settle the gender debate once and for all.
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The sexism storyline is played out right from the get go, and portrays very well how hard women had it back in the 70s as they struggled for equality. Yes, a lot of screen time goes to the tennis courts, but surely that’s to be expected in a film that revolves around a tennis match. Look out for a lot of snazzy tennis stunts and techniques – they look cool, even though it’s probably not the actors themselves that performed them. A lot of movie time seems dedicated to the affair between the married King and hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), which threatens to shift the focus away from the match and the “war of the sexes” theme the film is built around.
Stone plays her character beautifully, and is almost unrecognisable as the same actress who was the romantic lead in 2016’s La La Land. All in all, this is a must-see film for all tennis lovers, Stone fans, or simply anyone who loves a good old fashioned “girls vs boys” right.
Edited by Ginny Wong