Battle of the Sexes is a 2017 American biographical sports film directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and written by Simon Beaufoy. The plot is loosely based on the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Robert Larimore Riggs. The film stars Emma Stone and Steve Carell as King and Riggs, with Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Austin Stowell, Bill Pullman, and Sarah Silverman in supporting roles.
The film dramatizes the events leading up to the 1973 match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Robert Larimore Riggs (Steve Carell), and their personal lives. King and Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman) confront Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) who has announced a tennis tournament where the top prize for women is one-eighth of the men’s prize, despite equal ticket sales. King and Heldman threaten to start their own tour but Kramer won’t alter the terms, citing the inferiority of women’s tennis. He later expels the women who join the new tour from the Lawn Tennis Association. The women’s tour struggles until Heldman wins a lucrative sponsorship from Virginia Slims cigarettes. Billie Jean begins an affair with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), her hairdresser, threatening her marriage to Larry King (Austin Stowell).
Meanwhile, Riggs’ marriage to the wealthy Priscilla Wheelan (Elisabeth Shue) is in trouble because of his addiction to gambling. Thrown out of his house when he can’t conceal a Rolls Royce he won in a tennis bet, he hits upon the idea of a challenge match against the top woman player, boasting that even at age 55 he can beat any woman. King declines, but Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee), who recently beat King in a match, accepts. Riggs easily defeats Court and King decides she has to accept his challenge, but demands a final say as to the arrangements. King trains intensely, while Riggs relaxes. King objects to Kramer as a game announcer, threatening to not play unless he withdraws, which he does. After a slow start, King wins the match.
As of December 19, 2017, Battle of the Sexes has grossed $12.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $5.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $17.8 million.
In its opening weekend, the film grossed $515,450 from 21 theaters, an average of $24,545 per theater. The film expanded the following Friday, where it was released alongside the openings of Flatliners, ‘Til Death Do Us Part and American Made, and was projected to gross around $6 million from 1,213 theaters over the weekend. It ended up making $3.4 million over the weekend, finishing 6th at the box office. Deadline.com noted the film’s weekend gross was disappointing given its cast and positive reviews. The following week the film was added to another 609 theaters and made $2.4 million, dropping just 30%.
On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 86% based on 245 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site’s critical consensus reads, “Battle of the Sexes turns real-life events into a crowd-pleasing, well-acted dramedy that ably entertains while smartly serving up a volley of present-day parallels.” On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of “A” on an A+ to F scale.
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