No, that’s not laughably unsubtle dialogue coming out of Steve Carell. Bobby Riggs actually talked like that.
It’s rare to have to do some research to justify the insanity of a character’s cringe-worthy dialogue, but the cringing is all in good fun with Battle of the Sexes. This sometimes intense but mostly fluffy biopic handles this tennis match with the pizzazz it demands. With the personalities of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in an inspirational story like this, it’s amazing this tennis game wasn’t made into a theatrically-released movie decades ago. Just look at Riggs’ chauvinism and his comical plate of pills for dinner. This actually happened! It’s like watching a slightly timid Bond villain.
But it’s King, played by fresh Oscar-winner Emma Stone, who has the juiciest story. She has a strong drive for women’s rights, the literal power and ability to dominate her enemy in front of millions and a behind-the-curtains love interest! Again, how has this not been at least a dozen movies at this point?!? There’s only been a Holly Hunter ABC movie from 2001!!!
That comes with a bit of a price though. As mentioned earlier, with this ridiculous story and these very unsubtle sexist men, there’s that feeling of the movie overdoing it. Audience members may roll their eyes during the umpteenth “women can’t do anything” line. It may be true that’s how blatantly sexist some of these men were with their words, but the impact of the lines decrease in value the more it’s used. Maybe if there weren’t creative choices like not one, but two montages to popular songs that made the movie pass off as the trailer, this biopic wouldn’t feel as frivolous or simple.
Not to say the movie, from Little Miss Sunshine directors Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton, has no emotional weight. Especially with King dealing with her sexuality, the story does find a small bit of time to get serious. And the plucky and lovable Stone and the rest of the cast pull it off, even with their larger than life characters.
The irony for these “larger than life characters” is that they were real. It’s Hollywood in real life.