Following his 2018 feature debut, the Sundance police drama “Monsters and Men,” Reinaldo Marcus Green makes a huge leap from an indie drama to a studio drama with King Richard, a highly inspiring sports drama about the complex relationship between a determined father and his two gifted athletic daughters, who both end up changing the course of the sport of tennis. While both emotionally raw and equally uplifting, King Richard ends up becoming a biopic about Venus and Serena Williams’ father, Richard Williams, superbly acted by Will Smith, in which the film brings more empathy to the life of a public figure who, at the time, generated a lot of controversy and scrutiny from the sports media due to his unorthodox methods and patience in how he trained his two daughters.
A genuine crowd pleaser that will easily satisfy filmgoers, Warner Bros. should have no difficulty generating a pathway to Oscar success for this film. King Richard will have great chances of earning Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Aunjanue Ellis), and, of course, Best Actor (Will Smith), who is the current front-runner for Best Actor. Will Smith has been nominated twice before for Ali (2001) and The Pursuit of Happiness (2006), but lost to Denzel Washington for Training Day (2001) and Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland (2006). With King Richard, Will Smith now holds the opportunity to earn his first Oscar in a very transformative and emotive role.
While a period piece set in the early 90s, King Richard is a competently made film. The film offers a compelling narrative, delicate cinematography by Oscar winner Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood, Punch-Drunk Love, Good Night, and Good Luck), well staged tennis scenes, involving characters, and strong characterization. Inspired by the true story of a working-class Black man and his wife who raised Serena and Venus Williams, the film chronicles his extreme methods of nurturing and guiding them to success and stardom as tennis players. The film follows the conventions of both Hollywood sports movies and TV movies that are based on true stories.
Set in Compton, California, and Delray Tennis Academy in Florida, the story examines how the white sports media vilified Richard Williams, labeling him a “hustler,” “ego-driven,” and “brash self-promoter” who was accused of prioritizing his own self-interests over his daughters. Green, along with writer Zach Baylin, turns the spotlight on Richard Williams and reveals a more empathetic portrait of Richard, and it becomes clear in Richard’s story that all the media allegations were anything but. In fact, it was quite the contrary, as Richard was always looking out for the best interests of his daughters, their education, their health, and their well-being over instant gratification from money-driven agents.
Turning in his greatest performance since Michael Mann’s impressive Ali (2001), perhaps even a career-defining one, in which he embodies Richard’s mannerisms, accent, and vernacular quite authentically. Smith, who also serves as a producer on the film, was given a lot of insights along with screenwriter Baylin in getting the film’s final approval to make a genuine sports drama that doesn’t feel hokey or manipulative. Despite some setbacks in the narrative, the film isn’t as focused on Serena or Venus as it is on Richard, and the film examines Venus’ pro tennis debut, leaving Serena as a character who becomes more of an afterthought for the audience. The film also only focuses on a very brief time period of only three years, which is about the novice years leading up to Serena and Venus training hard at Delray Tennis Academy.
The end result is a film that is slightly overlong at 145 minutes, but the film moves around at a brisk pace. Dramatically, the film certainly resonates, thanks mainly to the dynamics of Richard’s and his family’s determination, while other areas of the narrative are left lightly-sketched and feel hurried. There is a misplaced scene in the film involving Richard feuding with a local gangster who he gets into a few fist fights with, which leads to Richard on the verge of confronting him with his own firearm before the gangster is gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Later, we see Richard watching news footage of the Rodney King beating, but the film never dives deep enough into how the riots or trial impacted the family. These are some lightly sketched moments in the film that don’t carry as much depth to the story as they could have.
With these parameters structured—and the dramatic momentum underway—bonds and challenges evolve between Richard (Smith), who’s deeply passionate about paving the way for his five daughters to triumph in everything they do, and he becomes even more passionate and even obsessed with guiding his two youngest daughters, Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton), into all-star champions. Richards’ methods were certainly unconventional, especially in the world of tennis. Richard trained Venus and Serena endlessly and effortlessly on the tennis courts near their home in Compton, and Richard even promoted them to any wealthy white guy at an upscale tennis club who would listen, even making home video promotions and printing out his own brochures that had selling points for his daughters’ talent.
Richard also has huge support from his wife, Oracene (Aunjanue Ellis), who’s also the mother of their daughters, and who also helped train them when they were younger. Richard works a security job at night, and by day he refers to his duties as a father as “the champion-raising business,” as he gets rejections and many declines, but he keeps going strong because he understands just how skillful and talented his daughters are. This eventually leads him to Paul Cohen (Tony Goldywn), who ends up reluctantly taking them on after Richard solicits him as their coach on a tennis court, but once he starts briefly training with the girls, he realizes they are beyond just young novices.
Eventually, this leads to a lot of success in the beginning, as Venus begins to win every gold trophy in their league tournaments, which eventually leads to young Serena winning tournaments as well, but she always feels like she’s trapped in the shadows of her bigger sister. Richard has methods, and he reassures her at one point that this is “his plan,” as the film paints him as a loving father, an empowering and strict coach, as well as a flawed but loving family man. While always guarding his daughter away from agents, this leads him to separate paths from Coach Cohen as he takes his daughters to be trained and coached by the highly regarded Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal),who owns a top-notch tennis camp in Delray Beach, Florida.
Bernthal is also outstanding in this role, shifting away from his often tough-guy persona and into a more ardent and animated role in which he forms a deep bond with Venus and Serena while also having some strong disagreements with Richard and his methods, as he wants to patiently wait for them to begin pro at such a young age. With a solid cast and performances, it’s really Will Smith who impresses the most. It’s a remarkable performance, playing a man of humility and principles, one who stands by what he feels is in the best interest of his family and daughters, who will not compromise if he doesn’t feel something is right, as well as a husband and father who wants to aim for humility and grace, while learning some of his own values through his wife and daughter along the way.
For this kind of sports drama to not feel overly earnest or sentimental, it requires commanding acting. Smith and the supporting cast are all perfectly cast. Will embodies the father’s role with affecting conviction, expressing many conflicting tones and even humility. Ellis as the supporting mother, a loving but stern wife, complements Smith quite well. The exchanges between Smith and the coaches–both Goldwyn and Bernthal–are well-scripted and hold great banter, wit, and even tension. With its empowering themes of endurance and humility, in going after what you want with grace and dignity, King Richard surpasses many recent sports films in its sharply focused chronicle of what it means to never give up, and it should hopefully empower many other people to keep plowing through as many obstacles will always stand against you in an exponentially competitively driven world.
Let’s see…a man of principles..ready to overcome every obstacle…a father whose every thought is for the success of his children (people)…endurance and humility. Sounds like Will Smith has played this character before as you mentioned (The Pursuit of Happyness, Ali). Denzel beat Will because he did a 180 with his character in Training Day. This movie sounds right up Smith’s alley because he’s played him before. It doesn’t seem like a major stretch for him. Joaquin Phoenix learning to play guitar and doing all the singing in “I Walk The Line” was a stretch, a 180. Denzel doing MacBeth, that’s a 180. Maybe it’s time Will does a 180. I’ll watch it, maybe, but I know the story and I don’t think Smith’s performance is going to enthrall me. Sounds like he’s playing who he always plays, with less muscles and a nice, graying Afro cut.
My review of King Richard trailer : meh
Will be watching this once it hits HBO Max, that’s my favorite streaming service as well.
will smith get that Oscars? oh course he WILL.
Will smith reminded me that he has it at all times. Its just sometimes he wants me to appreciate him more. Don’t worry will, I wont ever forget.
I thought this film was really good. I never was in to tennis much, but I enjoyed watching this biopic about the sisters and their journey to success. I felt smith did a phenomenal job and John bernthal did great as well. I see smith getting n Oscar nom and Bethnal for supporting actor as well.
Even though I thought the performances were good and it was well shot, the movie itself was so-so. Primarily because I found Richard Williams an incredibly unappealing character. So much so that as I was watching this, I had the distinct feeling that this had to be a watered-down version of who he really was, so I decided to research more on Williams myself…and boy oh boy is it watered-down. There’s a very telling article in the British Daily Mail’s website; the author (whose name I’m blanking on at the moment) met Williams and his daughters around the time they were 17-18, and it tells a very different story…one relayed mostly to the author by Williams himself (amongst other things, he was a shameless egotist…unfortunately, that’s probably the best thing that could be said about him). That story is far more compelling…and sadder…than what was portrayed on screen, but it sure as hell ain’t the “feel good movie of the year”, and a warts-and-all portrait would portray Mr. Williams as far from anything resembling a “king”.
I know it’s called King Richard, but why does the film not even attempt to develop Venus and Serena’s characters? They are but foils to the character arc of the least interesting member of the Williams family.
C’mon we already knew it was going to be Good let’s be honest. It’s a Will Smith movie based on real people & true events so that’s a given & it looks like he’s reaching for an Oscar with this one. But there’s simply no denying how magnetic the story of how Venus & Serena Williams became the stars they are today. Although it’s focused on Will Smith’s character who delivers a stellar performance, it’s Saniyya Sidney (Venus) & Demi Singleton (Serena) along with Aunjanue Ellis & Jon Bernthal that crush their performances & spectacularly makes us feel what they feel… we’re nervous when they’re nervous, we’re sad when they’re sad, we get angry when they get angry & we feel joy when they feel joy. It’s highly gratifying like we already knew it would be but watching & going along for the ride is still just as fulfilling as if we didn’t already know. It’s heartfelt, it makes you feel, it makes you think & it makes you proud. I give it a…
Not being a fan of manipulative biopics, sports or Will Smith, this seemed like a recipe for something I was going to hate. Another in the long line of terrible vanity projects alongside garbage like Collateral Beauty, Seven Pounds and countless others. King Richard manages to transcend it’s biopic tropes and excessive runtime thanks to telling an engrossing story and boasting one the best performances of Will Smith’s career.
A lot has been said of Smith’s performance. Playing the father of Venus and Serena Williams, who was their coach/manager trying to balance their potential careers in tennis while wanting them to have the childhood of a regular person. It’s a rare to get work out of Smith that raw, committed and emotional. He gives his all, delivering incredibly powerful moments as the world weary father who may push his kids too far, but also has only their best interests at heart.
Which is where King Richard is at its best. The exploration of pushing your child to have the successful life you weren’t able to have is something we’ve seen countless times, but is handled with such delicacy and care here. While there is thrilling training montages and intense tennis matches, this is first and foremost about the relationship between Richard and his family that isn’t afraid to dig into the more darker aspects of the kind of man he is.
There are some real gut-punch moments throughout that I didn’t not expect to receive with a film about tennis, but my, god they worked for me. The Williams family plight from their humble beginnings in an overcrowded house to fame and fortune is told very well despite a few cliche biopic creaks that are arguably unavoidable within the genre.
While the main focus is on the titular Richard Williams, Venus is definitely given her moments to shine thanks to a solid child performance from Saniyya Sidney, who really comes into her own against Smith in the third act as her frustration towards her father’s unwillingness to compete until she is ready hits a breaking point. It’s a shame Serena didn’t get too much focus, but ultimately this was telling the story of Richard and Venus at its focus.
I haven’t seen any of director Reinaldo Marcus Green other work, but he crafts some incredibly kinetic, energy fueled tennis sequences both with training and actual matches that are well shot, exciting and had me genuinely invested in a sport I could not care less about. I was also worried this was going to feel hokey and manipulative, but every emotional beat feels earned and honest enough thanks to the performances and Green’s direction. I will admit, the runtime could have been pulled back a bit in order for a tighter film closer to two hours as the pacing in the second act does begin to drag before the buildup to the big finale.
King Richard is a rare example of a truly good biopic. A Very well directed, sure to be crowd pleasing sports drama that balances it’s characters and subject in a caring manner while showcasing Will Smith giving one of, if not the best performance of his career. As someone who has no interest in the subject matter, it had me hooked.
I’m a sucker for “based on a true story” flicks and this one delivered for me. My only complaint would be that it was exactly the film that I expected, but it was good at being just that. Strong performances, delivering a fascinating true story about two women and a father that we have heard a lot about. What’s not to like?
My buddy told me to buy the Buddha Desktop Vaporizer, do you think that is a smart decision for a first time user?
Hello defactofilmreviews.com webmaster, Your posts are always well-formatted and easy to read.
To the defactofilmreviews.com administrator, Thanks for the informative post!
To the defactofilmreviews.com webmaster, Thanks for the educational content!
Hi defactofilmreviews.com administrator, Your posts are always well-written and easy to understand.
Hi defactofilmreviews.com webmaster, You always provide great examples and real-world applications.
Hello defactofilmreviews.com webmaster, Thanks for the well-written and informative post!
To the defactofilmreviews.com administrator, Your posts are always well researched.
Dear defactofilmreviews.com administrator, Your posts are always well-cited and reliable.
To the defactofilmreviews.com administrator, Thanks for the well-structured and well-presented post!
To the defactofilmreviews.com administrator, Your posts are always well-supported by facts and figures.
Hi defactofilmreviews.com administrator, Your posts are always informative and up-to-date.
To the defactofilmreviews.com webmaster, Your posts are always well-cited and reliable.