Plot: What’s it about?
There has been, is and always will be a battle of the sexes. Come to think of it, there will always be a “battle of” something as that’s human nature. There are things that women do better than men and vice versa. At the risk of sounding like a male chauvinist pig, I will have to side with the character played by Steve Carell, in that I don’t find women’s sports to be particularly entertaining. Professional female athletes don’t get paid the same as their male counterparts simply because it’s the nature of the beast. Advertisers don’t market beer and fast food to women’s sports simply because, well, that’s not who watches them. Little girls don’t grow up idolizing female athletes because it’s not something that’s particularly feasible. For men, it’s just a different ball of wax. That being said, the events that are depicted in Battle of the Sexes did set the standard and though this is a bit before my time, it was a joy to watch.
We begin with Billie Jean King’s (Emma Stone) win at the US Open. King, upon hearing of the inequality between the men’s and women’s prize money, begins a battle with the US Lawn Tennis Association to demand equal pay. Met with laughs by Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), the head of the association, he explains it’s not women’s fault, but they “just aren’t that fun to watch.” King forms her own women’s association as a protest against industry sexism. With the help of fiery agent Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman), King rounds up fellow women’s pro players to embark on a countrywide tour, despite threats of being barred from future major competitions. Upon hearing of Billie Jean’s feminist battle against the system, former champion Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) comes out of retirement to challenge her to a male versus female tennis match. The idea of settling the score of who plays tennis best is as the heart of the film.
There’s a lot of “girl power” here and rightfully so. The events, though somewhat fictionalized, are spot on and the worldwide audience of 90 million showed that this wasn’t a small affair. This film provides an excellent account of a defining moment in sports history and educates audiences on the pioneering work that Billie Jean King did for women’s professional tennis. Overall this film has serious themes but is still an entertaining watch with comic relief and enjoyable nods to the era. It’s not out to change the world (and it didn’t), but it also serves as a point of reference as to how far we’ve come in the last 45 years. Both Carell and Stone provide entertaining performances and the ensemble cast makes the film work. Like most “sports movies” there isn’t a lot of emphasis on the sport itself, tennis in this case, but rather the events revolving around it. Nevertheless, it’s a fun way to kill a few hours.
Video: How’s it look?
The included 2.39:1 AVC HD encode echoes 1970s cinema with the use of heavy grain, long lenses and saturated color. Even the Fox logo is retro. That said, it does give the film a sense of time and atmosphere, but it still retains the look of a modern film with its clarity (despite the deliberate attempt to make it look old). Shadows are free of grain, contrast strong and detail (when it needs to be) is consistently sharp. It’s a good-looking title. Game, set and match.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Likewise, the DTS HD Master Audio isn’t challenged that much, save for some audience ambiance. The track is largely vocally-driven and that’s just fine. This isn’t the kind of film that’s going to challenge your 7.1 or 9.1/2 setup. It’s just not. That said, everything here is passable with a nice, diffused soundstage that’s sure to please. No double faults here, folks.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Fox serves up a slew of extras that are a fairly standard affair.
- Raw Footage: Billie Jean’s Grand Entrance – The title says it all!
- Reigniting the Rivalry – Basically playing out like a glorified trailer, this gives us a brief overview of the film.
- Billie Jean King: In Her Own Words – The former tennis star shares a few thoughts and words about the subject matter.
- Galleries – These can be played manually or automatically and contain some production stills from the film.
The Bottom Line
The same creative team that gave us Little Miss Sunshine are back at it with Battle of the Sexes. It’s a fun movie that, most likely, many have forgotten how big of a deal it actually was. Fox’s Blu-ray looks good and has enough supplements to perhaps warrant a purchase. Good performances from Carell and Stone highlight a star studded cast.