STUDIO: Miramax
MSRP: $29.99
• French Audio Track
• English Subtitles

The Pitch

“Let’s turn an amazing true-life story into a phony movie-of-the week!”

The Humans

Holly Hunter (Raising Arizona, Copycat), Ron Silver (The Entity, Blue Steel, Reversal of Fortune), Bob Gunton (Demolition Man, The Shawshank Redemption), Fred Willard (Fernwood Tonight)

The Nutshell

In September of 1973, tennis superstar (and high-profile feminist) Billie Jean King played an exhibition match against long-retired champ (and professed male chauvinist) Bobby Riggs in the Houston Astrodome. The event was dubbed “The Battle of the Sexes,” and was watched by millions. It’s hard to believe now, but the impact on women’s sports and what was then called Women’s Liberation was incalculable. And uh, yeah— like the title says, the lady won. So much for suspense.

Cheek Vision is not for everyone. If you experience discomfort or melting face, consult a doctor.

The Package

Presentation is 16:9 anamorphic with Dolby 2.0 audio; acceptable for an ABC TV movie, which this was. Detail is grainy and colors are drab, which may or may not have been an attempt to evoke genuine ‘70s TV movies.

The disc comes in a plastic case. There are pictures from the movie on the case so you can tell what movie it is. That’s pretty much it for your Extras, bub.

"The kid is not my son!"

The Lowdown

This is one flat film, visually and dramatically. From the numbingly familiar sepia-toned childhood sequence in which tomboy Billie refuses to be like the other girls, to the sappy closing montage of Women Who Went On To Become Somebody Because Of What Billie Did, the movie takes no chances. Real-life personalities are duly identified with subtitles (Nora Ephron, ladies and gentlemen!) whether they have anything to do with the story or not, and everyone speaks fluent Bio-Pic: "You’re going to transform women’s sports!" "You just won Wimbledon!" "It’s 1973!".

In the lead, Hunter does what she can (and shows off some brutally well-sculpted biceps), but the script strips King of all imperfection and idiosyncrasy, serving her up instead as a feminist saint.

"I hear and obey."

The saving grace is Ron Silver. Over-the-top or no, he’s great fun to watch– he was probably happy not to be playing yet another lawyer or psychiatrist. His Bobby Riggs is a publicity addict, a shameless hustler, but always a flicker of desperation away from admitting that tennis is the only thing he ever did well in his life. He has a beautiful moment early on: having found himself required to explain to a young Jimmy Connors how his career was derailed by a little thing called World War II, he mutters, “He didn’t know there was a war? It was a big war…”

Here’s the movie’s biggest problem: it wants to celebrate Billie Jean King, but Bobby Riggs is the hero. He’s the one with everything to lose; he’s the reason everything happens, and at the end he’s the one who knows he played his game at 100% for the first time in years and it was worth it. In a way, he wins after all — Battle of the Sexes be damned.

4.5 out of 10