In full disclosure, I am a late baby boomer and a lifelong tennis player. So when I first saw the previews for the Battle of the Sexes movie starring Emma Stone as Billie Jean King at Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs, I was all in.
It was 1973, I was 14 and there was no internet and no cable TV. Everybody was talking about about this event for weeks (maybe months) leading up to this event…sincerely this was a national event.
Riggs, 20-25 years prior, was one of the best tennis players in the world. Somehow in the early 70's, he burst on the scene as this "character", self promoter doing many zany things involving tennis..
Played by the fine Steve Carell in this film, Riggs seems is portrayed as a more likable and not as an outlandish personality as I recall. Maybe the world has desensitized us to "outrageous remarks". He seems like Mr.
Mild in this fine film.
I remember him handily beating then world champion Margaret Court earlier in the year in straight sets. 5 Months later, he was playing new world champion Billi Jean King, played magnificently by Emma Stone, in front of 30,000 passionate fans on live on national network TV (ABC). King was the quintessential leader of the tennis movement both on the court and of the unofficial female tennis players union striving to get equal respect, sponsorship,$, visibility etc as the men players.
That was the era of the Vietnam war just ending and the feminist/equality movement was really taking off. This match was historic and arguable the most famous match in history in an effort to break stereotypes and more.
We all knew the outcome going into this match but the background stories of both Kings and Rigg's lives, particular King, was most interesting.
Now I better understand why BJK is so revered in tennis lore (and she is still alive and well) and is the all time leader of the women's tennis movement. Her journey on the court as well as off the court as a groups leader, her married life, her transition into same sex relationships and more casts a fascinating spotlight on her and her successful efforts.
This movie clearly connects with a smaller audience…my era and will be tough to bring in the younger crowd. Not edgy enough, not a tier-1 sport and more historical then entertaining (i.e. like with special events).
I really enjoyed but again this movie was made for me.