I was invited to see a preview screening of “Battle of the Sexes” by the Elton John Aids Foundation, a charity that is fighting against both the disease and the stigma of HIV around the world (there are still 72 countries in the world where were being gay is illegal). Elton is close friends with Billie Jean, who sits on the board of his charity.
The movie focuses on the build up to a tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, a former number 1 (male) tennis player. Since I was only 4 years old when the match was played, I wasn’t familiar with the story. It’s a story of discrimination against steely grit, and in this game, I’m glad to say that the right team won.
Billie Jean King was forefront in the fight to get equal pay for woman tennis players, and at great professional risk formed her own breakaway tennis association. The movie plays out her refusal to accept winning payouts eight times less than her male counterparts and then go on to success, both in her own tennis organisation as well as her sport.
The movie has Billie Jean’s first kiss with another woman and touches upon the difficulties this caused her at the time, being already married to Larry. She seemed to still be in a state of confusion at the end of the movie after the tennis match. In one of the most poignant moments of the movie, after she’d cried her eyes out alone in the minutes after the tennis match, her gay dressmaker (played by Alan Cumming) whispered in her ear “Don’t worry, times change. But you know that – you just changed them. There will be a time when you can love who you choose.”
The tennis match takes place at the end of the movie, and I had to resist the urge to shout and burst into applause all the way through the game. Most artsy dramas are slow moving and I can find my attention waning. This movie grabs your attention and holds it all the way throughout the film, much the same as Speed or Lord of the Rings, probably because, like those other movies, it’s a simple battle of right over wrong, and the victor’s strength and determination holds strong in the face of many a challenge. I urge you, go see this movie!