“King Richard” stars Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal, and Dylan McDermott. Released on November 19, 2021, the film chronicles the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams.
The film was directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, who also directed “Monsters and Men” and “Joe Bell”. The Williams sisters are some of the greatest players in tennis history, impressing everyone with their extraordinary skills on the court. You might be wondering how they’re able to rise to the top and maintain their successful careers. Well, you can thank their father for that. This latest biographical drama is going for Oscar gold this year with its depiction of the young Williams siblings and their rise to stardom. However, the story it’s telling isn’t just from the perspectives of the sisters. It’s also from the point of view of their father, Richard Williams, who’s willing to help them reach their goals. I wasn’t overly familiar with the Williams and their careers in tennis. Heck, I don’t even watch tennis, let alone play it, but Will Smith’s involvement and strong word of mouth already made this a must-see for me. With that said, let’s see if this film is inspiring enough to score some points on the court.
The story centers on Richard Williams (Smith), a father raising his two daughters, Venus (Sidney) and Serena (Singleton), along with his three step-daughters in Compton, California. The film explores his journey to train Venus and Serena to become professional tennis players. With the support of his wife Brandy (Ellis), Richard attempts to change the tennis world while maintaining his family bond. The film had a lot of stuff to cover regarding Richard and his daughters, including his training, the family drama, and Venus competing with the pros. It’s a movie that explores their determination while delivering some inspiration and craftsmanship in its story and characters. If that’s what you’re searching for, then you came to the right place. While its sports biopic formula isn’t entirely new, “King Richard” made a strong effort in representing its compelling storytelling and, more importantly, its star power. It’s a highly entertaining and incredibly thoughtful tale about a father who balances success with family despite an obstacle or two. One of the best things about the film was its depiction of Richard Williams. It portrayed Richard as an honorable and caring father regarding what’s best for his daughters, but he’s also a flawed person whose decisions didn’t appeal to everyone, especially the coaches. This added complexity to this character, making him someone that audiences, including myself, would invest in, not just Venus and Serena. The film is all about Richard’s “plan” to make his daughters champions and his journey to accomplish it. The movie handled this character with near perfection, primarily due to Zach Baylin’s screenplay and Will Smith’s incredible performance. This is possibly one of the best roles Smith has ever done regarding his commitment and nuance. Like his portrayal of Bennet Omalu in “Concussion”, Smith’s acting for Richard was so distinct that he disappeared into the role altogether. You don’t see an actor playing an actual person. You only see Richard Williams. If this doesn’t get Smith into the awards race, I can assure you there will be trouble. Aunjanue Ellis was also excellent as Brandy, and Jon Bernthal was suitably talented as Rick Macci. I would also give a massive shoutout to Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton for their outstanding performances as Venus and Serena, respectively, especially Sidney, who made every shining moment count. Even though the plot seemed straightforward and a bit overlong, Reinaldo Marcus Green made sure that every scene was well-paced and included a superb mixture of comedy, drama, and heart, not just for the characters but also the scenarios. If the filmmaker wasn’t recognized for his previous works, I’m willing to bet that he will for this movie. I thought Green did a fantastic job representing a story that’s both dramatic and safe without overdoing one or the other. More importantly, he provided charisma and sincerity in the cast’s chemistry, mainly Richard and his daughters. I highly enjoyed the scenes involving these characters regarding the humor and performances, which add to the film’s charm.
Overall, “King Richard” made an incredible impression on the court narrative-wise and cast-wise. Despite its formula, the film managed to come out on top with its thought-provoking story, fantastic cast, solid screenplay, and Green’s superb direction. It’s a film that didn’t need to be overly serious with its themes to be a masterpiece. It just needed to be a fun, light-hearted, and uplifting experience to get audiences cheering. As long as the story is well-executed and the cast is engaging, that’s all it needed to make itself watchable, and I believe “King Richard” fits that description almost perfectly. If you’re a fan of feel-good sports movies and Will Smith himself, this film is definitely worth checking out.