Battle of the Sexes

Any of you bothered by the sad fact that men continue to dominate both Congress and the Supreme Court?

Battle of the SexesThis is a movie about a subject that most Americans prefer to ignore. Like it or not, we tolerate a society where women remain in a position of second-class citizenship.

However, let’s forget the past presidential election where Hillary Clinton lost to a sexist bigot like our President. Though it would have been historic to have elected the first female president, her candidacy suffered in the same fashion as Jeb Bush. The bottom line was that most Americans felt that enough was enough from both families.

With this movie, we relive a classic tennis battle between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973. She was the top-ranked female tennis player in the world while he was the sexist equivalent of our current president. A dedicated gambler, he wanted this tennis match so he could make a buck while she wanted to put women’s tennis on an equal financial footing as men’s.

In the process, Emma Stone and Steve Carell give wonderful performances as protagonists fighting a public battle while trying to protect disintegrating personal lives. Mr. Riggs had a wife, here played by Elizabeth Shue, who was fed up with his false promises to give up his gambling addiction while Ms. King’s husband (Austin Stowell) wanted her to succeed professionally while knowing that she was hiding her sexuality.

Ironically, this movie focused far more on the personal lives of our protagonists as noted above. Mr. Carell’s Riggs had one goal, namely to use notoriety to make money. As for Ms. Stone’s Billie Jean King, she was trying to hide the fact of her love for a female hairdresser to keep from thwarting her attempt to equate female athletes to men.

The strength and weakness of this film is that tennis was not its main focus. On the other hand, there were some wonderful supporting performances that added meaning to the entire film.

To begin with, Sarah Silverman was sensational playing Gladys Heldman, a cynical and sarcastic leader of the feminist tennis movement given birth by Ms. King. In addition, Andrea Riseborough gives a compelling performance as Marilyn Barnett, the woman whose personal love and devotion to Ms. King placed her on a tightrope that few could successfully walk.

Also, Bill Pullman gives a hateful performance as the sexist tennis commentator Jack Kramer, a man who continued to believe that female tennis players deserved to be paid less than men. Also Alan Cummings gives a memorable performance as Cuthbert “Ted” Tinling, a gay attendant of Ms. King’s who was always present to give great advice.

Quite honestly, this is an interesting movie despite its shortcomings. Our Directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, previously brought us two sensational films, Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and Ruby Sparks (2012). Here, while they don’t quite climb that same cinematic ladder, you had to admire their effort.