Battle of the Sexes Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

America, seventies. Tennis prodigy Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) takes on tennis tournament organizer Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) for equal pay for women tennis players and men. But Kramer is vehemently opposed. He argues that women’s tennis is not as interesting as men’s, so they need to pay less.

Tired of fighting with the organizers, Billie Jean, egged on by her friend, tennis magazine publisher Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman), decides to create the Women’s Tennis Association, with which she wants to achieve equality in prize money.

Meanwhile, 54-year-old Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), who has always been prone to outrageousness and now doesn’t really know what to do with himself, has come out in the media criticizing women’s claims to equal pay with men. Bobby claims that he is now ready to defeat any female tennis player.

Bobby challenges top tennis player Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee), who has just beaten Billie Jean King at Wimbledon. And Court shamefully loses to Riggs.

Well, after that, Bobby challenges Billie Jean King. And she can’t help but accept this challenge.


That this was based on real events, I knew even before watching it: I remembered this story of the match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, after which interest in tennis in the States increased explosively. At the same time, I also vaguely remembered that a film had already been made about this. Rummaged – and for sure: the picture “When Billy beats Bobby” in 2001 with Holly Hunter and Ron Silver. She starred for television, did not go to theaters, she has 534 votes on IMDB.

“Battle of the Sexes” (the original name was not distorted this time for some reason – apparently, because that was the name of the very match) was staged by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris – the directors of the sensational film “Little Miss Sunshine” at the time. The script was written by Simon Beaufoy, writer of Slumdog Millionaire and Male Striptease.

The film tells about the period of the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association in the USA, about the beginning of women’s tennis tournaments sponsored by the tobacco brand Virginia Slims, about two matches between Riggs and Court, Riggs and King, and about Billie Jean King’s affair with a hairdresser (in reality, she was her assistant) Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), and Billie Jean at that moment was married to Larry King (Austin Stowell).

All this is set, I tell you, a little strange. Whether the creators of the picture could not really decide what they are still filming – a sports drama, a hymn to feminism, condemnation of male chauvinism, or still a comedy. No, they caught up with pathos on the most nightshade and desperately pedaled the theme of Billie Jean’s struggle for equal rights with male tennis players. They also paid a lot of attention to the topic of the emergence of a tender relationship between a tennis player and this Marilyn and constantly explained that if at that time, yes, someone suspected, God forbid – everything, the end of a career, you can go to work at McDonald’s. (“Why didn’t she ever take off her glasses in bed?” Bublik the cat asked tactlessly.)

But at the same time, they were still embarrassed to make a real villain and a vile chauvinistic pig out of Bobby Riggs, so they showed quite close to reality how Bobby openly plays the fool, so Billie Jean’s pathos “I will now defend the honor of all the women of the world” in the film looked somewhat out of place . It was also not very clear why, with a seemingly irreconcilable confrontation, which was so hinted at in the picture, Billy Jean communicates very nicely with Bobby and plays along with him at a press conference with pleasure. (This press conference is on tape and was staged very close to what actually happened.)

In fact, that match between Bobby and Margaret, that match between Bobby and Billy Jean – it was a pure show, nothing more. A means to earn money on both sides. And a means to raise the interest of the audience in tennis, because in those days tennis was not at all so popular. Margaret, being a very strong tennis player (she is the winner of 24 Grand Slam tournaments), blew Bobby for two reasons: she planned the style of the game incorrectly, and besides, she was very seriously trolled before this match that Bobby and his promoters, that the media, so she just broke down.

Billie Jean, accepting the offer of Bobby and his promoters, put one single rigid condition: they must have the same pay. That was what mattered most to her, that was what she really fought for with all her might: equal pay for female tennis players with male tennis players. The promoters actively objected, saying that the public would go to Bobby first, but Billie Jean was relentless. And when they agreed with her conditions and started trolling her, she didn’t give a damn about all this shit and was reeling with might and main, playing along with Bobby. After all, they had known each other for a long time: Bobby went to her matches and they had quite friendly relations.

And she won against Bobby, because she carefully studied how he plays now: he never quit tennis and was still a serious tennis player (he also won against Margaret for a reason), but the twenty-six-year age difference is on this Billie Jean and played. She did not play her usual aggressive and attacking game, but tried to work on the back line and drove Bobby around the court properly. Twenty-nine-year-old Billie Jean, who is at the peak of her athletic form, rushing around the court like a doe, and fifty-four-year-old Bobby, who hit perfectly and still owned all sorts of tricks, but he simply didn’t have enough corny breath and Bobby died – he was smashed all over fronts.

It was an amazing show – the TV broadcast of the match was watched by a record number of viewers. Well, as I said above, after the match, interest in tennis increased unusually.

If we renounce pathos, then it is visually staged well. Seventies style, bright colors, hefty-rimmed glasses, sideburns for men, purposeful Billie Jean, amusingly fooling Bobby.

At the same time, people around the tennis player clearly have a built-in gay radar: according to the film, almost everyone around knew about her relationship with Marilyn. And other tennis players knew, and Margaret Court knew and strongly condemned (according to the film, by the way, they made her a very unpleasant person), and her husband quickly guessed everything (in fact, the scandal on this topic broke out only ten years later), but did not interfere , but simply, having stepped over his feelings, he gave his beloved wife the will to fuck with whom she wants. Ah, charm, charm. Well, the husband in this film is generally a Ken doll, nothing more.

Such things were very disturbing. It was a great story, an outstanding athlete, but these moments of frank lubok were very annoying.

I didn’t like Emma Stone as Billie Jean. Well, yes, the make-up artists did their best, but besides the makeup, I didn’t see much here. In my opinion, her character turned out to be some kind of slightly cardboard, although she is generally a good actress. But here with the scenario of the problem: in my opinion, they could not reveal it purely by scenario. In contrast, by the way, from the character of Steve Carell, who is much more lively and textured here.

But there, in fact, there was no need to invent anything: the real Bobby Riggs was a very outrageous person and a born showman, so here it was just necessary to carefully recreate what he did in his time. Steve Carell was perfect for this role, especially since he and Bobby look alike.

At first I thought that they had come up with something for the film, but when I collected the materials, it turned out that everything really happened: Bobby really fooled around in black, diligently drawing attention to his fights, and the position of the “chauvinistic pig” met with an excellent response from the then public.

I read in an interview with the filmmakers that they were greatly influenced by the recent presidential elections in America. Like, they were shooting a picture on the eve of the first woman president appearing in the States after the first African American president, and then … In general, it was implicitly sounded in an interview, in our film a strong, strong-willed and determined woman defeated an elderly clown, and in America today, the opposite has happened.

The picture left me with ambivalent impressions. The script is clearly tailored for a bunch of “Oscars” (this is typical of Simon Beaufoy: “Slumdog Millionaire” is exactly that, although Danny Boyle’s excellent production saves it). And it was precisely this confinement that prevented a really good film from being made. Because Billie Jean King was a very outstanding athlete. She really did a lot for the equality of women with men in tennis – and this, of course, deserves great respect. But Billie Jean King, I, unfortunately, did not see in this film. I saw Emma Stone, carefully made up as Billie Jean King, and a significant part of the film was devoted to the lesbian experiences of her character, against which, on the one hand, I have nothing at all, but, on the other hand, it is simply not interesting to me. I wonder what kind of athlete she was, but somehow it’s not about sports at all. And, of course, surrounded by Billie Jean in the film were mostly sensitive and understanding gays – well, how can you not give an Oscar?!!

By the way, for some reason it did not work out with the Oscars – the film does not have a single nomination. And with the Golden Globes, there were only two nominations – and that’s it. True, there were also Women Film Critics and Women for Wildlife awards, but this is understandable, there are no questions here.

Just for comparison, I watched “When Billy Beats Bobby” – by the way, there is a professional dubbing on Rutreker. A cute comedy – it’s not even clear why it was not noticed at all. Billie Jean’s fight to create the Women’s Tennis Association is. Foolish Bobby – there is a full program. It clearly shows why Bobby beat Margaret. Billie Jean’s struggle with the organizers of tennis tournaments is. The relationship between Billie Jean and Bobby is clearly shown – quite friendly and quite long. The match is well shown when she made it. There are no lesbian relationships in the picture.

(By the way, the real Marilyn Barnett, as far as I know, after the end of their relationship with Billie Jean King, sued her and sued for a sour compensation. I don’t know the details, just the fact itself.)

Holly Hunter turned out to be a much more lively and vivid character: a strong-willed and strong woman who rebels against the unconditionally dominant male chauvinism in those days, but in this film she acts precisely in the context of that time, which looks quite authentic. And there is something very, very artificial about “Struggle of the Sexes”: as if a feminist from two thousand tenths was placed in the seventies of the last century.

I liked the old movie better. It was filmed for a penny, few people saw it, but it’s cool, and Holly Hunter and Ron Silver are very funny in it. By the way, Holly Hunter is really there in amazing physical shape. Not that it mattered much to the film, but still.

Shot from the movie “When Billy Beats Bobby”

These are my impressions. However, I must say that the film looks good – until you have an overall picture. And only after watching you ask yourself the question: what kind of garbage was shown to me here ?! It happens. This is a sign of a bad movie. Which I liked anyway.

PS A couple of real photos of Billy Jean and Bobby.

PPS And after watching this movie, I immediately remembered “Fox Hunting” with the same Steve Carell. (Also starring Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.) Also a sports biopic. And quite different – very, very outstanding. And what same there Carell awesome.


Battle of the Sexes movie meaning

Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris Cast: Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Steve Carell, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Fred Armisen, Elisabeth Shue, Natalie Morales, Alan Cumming, Eric Christian Olsen

Worldwide gross: $13 million
Tragicomedy, UK-USA, 2017, 121 min.

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