The Battle of Billie and Bobby
You know how some people say "I remember it well" or "I remember it as if it was yesterday", well I don't remember it all. What I am on about is the "Battle of the Sexes" a match between women's tennis champion Billie Jean King and has been Bobby Riggs, a match which took place in 1973. Now in fairness I was only born in 1972 so it is no surprise that I don't remember it at all but after stumbling across "When Billie Beat Bobby" I thought well lets see what this is all about. Now I don't know about the true story but what "When Billie Beat Bobby" is is a fun movie, a comedy dramatization of the events which has its issues but if you take it in the fun spirit which is intended you will be amused.
So what we have going on is Billie Jean King being one of a group of female tennis stars who were becoming aggrieved at receiving less prize money for winning contests as men did. At the same time retired Tennis star Bobby Riggs comes up with an idea to have him play some women stars a "Battle of the sexes" but in truth was more a desire to be big news again. When having beaten one woman he challenges Billie to a game and when she finally accepts the media frenzy surrounding the game reaches fever pitch.
As I said I was born in 1972 so don't remember this match at all, in fact I had never even heard about it so I have to say I have no idea how true to life this TV movie is. But what I can say is that "When Billie Beat Bobby" seems to be a movie about three things. The first of those things is to highlight the unrest within the female tennis players over the differences in the prize money. Yes that does mean that this movie has a feminist side and frankly not a subtle one but like with many things about the movie the feminist side as well as the sexist side is done in an intentionally comical way.
The second thing is the dramatization of the story and whilst I don't know the true story the one shown is entertaining. Director Jane Anderson not only keeps things moving but keeps things light as well so whilst the story has a message it never becomes weighed down by it.
That leads me to the third thing and "When Billie Beat Bobby" is very much a comedy. The whole movie has a jokey tone and the characters especially the men are made to appear like caricatures none more so than that of Bobby Riggs. When you take "When Billie Beat Bobby" as a comedy with sexist and feminist caricatures it ends up amusing but taken seriously I would imagine it would be offensive.
The thing about "When Billie Beat Bobby" is that whether you like the comedy aspect the actors play their parts well with Holly Hunter delivering a strong and frankly attractive performance as Billie Jean King. Hunter is such a likeable star that she could have played King as a nasty piece of work and she would have still been likeable. Then there is Ron Silver who channels his comedy side to deliver a seriously quirky performance as Bobby Riggs to the point of making him a caricature, an over the top sexist clown seeking attention. But it makes Bobby amusingly quirky which seeing the movie's tone is comedy works well.
What this all boils down to is that "When Billie Beat Bobby" is not a good dramatization of what happened but is certainly an entertaining movie with a wonderful comical side.