Film Review: “King Richard”

Tennis superstars and Executive Producers Venus and Serena Williams share the invigorating and uplifting story of their early career with the guidance and support of their father Richard Williams.

If you ever wondered how world-wide famous tennis players Venus and Serena Williams came to be the best at their craft, then look no further than Reinaldo Marcus Green’s biopic “King Richard.” This film is a look at how Venus and Serena Williams become the tennis superstars they are with the guidance and coaching of their father Richard Williams, portrayed by Will Smith. We begin in Compton where we see Richard trying to find a coach for Venus and Serena (for free, which one can imagine is extremely difficult) while also coaching them himself along with his wife Brandy (Aunjanue Ellis). Green balances drama and comedy by showing the violent gang presence in their neighborhood they grew up in and juxtaposing it with Richard’s use of his natural comedic charm to persuade wealthy tennis coaches in better neighborhoods. Green shows how well he can balance emotions like these throughout the film, especially in a scene where Richard takes note of some promoters who might have made a remark about his race, a testament to Green and Smith’s skill to be able to make a scene dealing with race comedy. 

While on the surface this might seem like a film about Venus and Serena Williams’ early childhood and they are a main focus this is definitely a film about Richard Williams. Although this might throw some audiences off, it makes for a compelling story that shines a spotlight on the people that helped the Williams sisters achieve their success. We follow Richard more than we follow his children, as we are able to see the commitment and dedication he brought forth in order to ensure his daughters’ success. The script expertly navigates through Richard’s story along with his daughters’. Will Smith gives an incredible performance that will be remembered as one of his best. He embodies the role of Richard Williams with care and respect, and breathes authenticity into the role. Smith shows both the good and bad sides of Richard, but keeps his humanity intact. There are many instances in the film where he is tough on his kids and lets his ego and insecurities get the best of him, one of which happens later in the film when he won’t let Venus play in a tournament despite protests from Venus, coach Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal), and Brandy. Smith is able to show Williams’ flaws through these scenes and show how his tough attitude is coming from a place of love. His performance also elevates the others in the film, including Saniyya Sidney’s portrayal of Venus and Demi Singleton’s portrayal of Serena. They bring life and a special sense of charm to the film, making their family dynamic wonderful to watch. We also get to see a magnetic duo in Richard and the Williams sisters’ new Florida coach Rick Macci. Bernthal and Smith are dynamic on screen together as their characters go tit for tat and Macci is forever exasperated by Richard’s demands and his tendency to steal his carts. 

This film excels in creating the ultimate feel-good story. It has the standard biopic formula and hits the same beats as others, but keeps it engaging and fun as we experience the highs and lows of the Williams family. The editing of the film creates a great balance between the family drama and relationships, alongside the actual tennis playing. Even if you have no knowledge of the sport, you will find yourself enjoying the matches, as they are exciting and intense. Green does a great job of displaying the matches and letting us feel what the Williams family feels watching Venus and Serena play. The production team paid close attention to detail when designing the look and feel of the film. From recreating the home videos Richard made to reviving the girls’ hairstyles, everything had an immense amount of care put into it. Green saw how the media portrayed Richard and after hearing the family’s perspective, it was clear the love, time, and commitment that Richard and Brandy gave to their family, and Green made sure to translate that onto the screen.

King Richard is a heartwarming tale that touches the heart. It’s an inspiring film that tells a powerful story about persistence, drive, and hard love that will have you leaving the theater in high hopes. Beyoncé’s uplifting song “Be Alive” playing over the credits only bolsters that feeling. King Richard will definitely leave you feeling good to be alive.

Grade: A
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Starring: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal
Release Date: Nov. 19, 2021
Rated: PG-13

Image courtesy of NBC News.