Battle of the Sexes

Sporting events provide an arena for political conflict. Take the year 1973, for example, when male chauvinism was in full display in tennis. After President Richard Nixon telephones Billy Jean King (played by Emma Stone) to congratulate her for winning the Grand Slam of Tennis, she is offered less money for the next match compared to her male counterpart. Refusing to accept such inequality, even at the cost of being barred from the male-dominated Lawn Tennis Association, she finds a lucrative new sponsor (Virginia Slims) and tours the country in match after match. But male chauvinist Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) is dying to play against her in a tournament so that he can collect enough money from the event to pay off his gambling debts. Consequently, Battle of the Sexes, co-directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valeria Faris, becomes a duo-biopic. Riggs is separated from his wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue) due to his gambling addiction. King, meanwhile, finds pleasure having sex with her hair stylist, Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), something that disappoints her loyal husband Larry (Austin Stowell) but must be kept secret lest her reputation will become tarnished. Billy Jean is then so emotionally torn that she loses a tournament with Margaret Court (Jessica MacNamee). Riggs, who acts like a punk with so many silly costumes on the court to get attention, then challenges Court and wins. The male chauvinists then congratulate themselves that all their stereotypes about the “weaker sex” are true. But that galvanizes Billy Jean to accept Riggs’s challenge, so the tennis match of the century is held in which 55-year-old Riggs is resoundingly defeated by 29-year-old Billy Jean. Titles at the end carry the duo-biopic forward: Riggs, evidently humiliated by his loss, is reconciled with his wife. Billy Jean pairs up with the love of her life without losing face, and the couple even serves as godparents of children of her former husband and his new wife. The Political Film Society has nominated Battle of the Sexes for an award as best film of 2017 in promoting human rights  MH