- Release Date: 02/09/2021
- Platform: Vudu
- Cast: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn
- Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
I watched King Richard twice and enjoyed it just as much as I did the first time. It is about 2 hours and 24 minutes long and still has enough meat in the story, enough charisma in its character renditions, and enough intrigue in its drama and thrills to make every second of that runtime worthwhile and investing. There is nothing in the film that I would like to leave out. Not even some of the mundane scenes where we see Richard Williams go about his daily chores. It is amazing to note that the film has only one major sports encounter involving Venus Williams. The rest of it is all about Venus and Serena’s father Richard preparing them for what he believes is their destiny. He often says in the film that he has made plans for the girls and he goes one step at a time after that plans until he proves everybody wrong who doubted his lofty dreams and gifts the world two of the greatest tennis legends that the world ever had the pleasure of watching play.
As the title suggests, King Richard is Richard Williams’ story who makes his family his life’s dream and work. Let alone, Serena and Venus who he trains for tennis glory, all his other children are brought up well and Richard’s concentration is as much on their grades in school as it is on their conduct around people and society. When a boy harasses one of his daughters he takes it upon himself to silence him but is instead beaten back in the full view of his daughters. He gradually limps back to their bus and drives on but not before he has spoken what was there in his heart. These bits of warm and dramatic moments explain the inception of the tenacity and zeal that we later see Venus and Serena display on and off the court.
Richard is not afraid to stand up to one of the greatest tennis coaches in the world when he feels that his daughter’s stance is not what it should be. He dares to dictate the man to take a deeper look into it. The coach then has to justify his action as Richard is not only overbearing but also knowledgeable about the sport that he has learned while training his daughters. He later fires the same coach when he feels that his choices are not in the best interest of his daughters. The next coach that he hires sticks with the family through thick and thin. Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal) is shown having nerves of steel as Richard not only annoys the bejesus out of him with his constant meddling in the training process but also doesn’t let the man do things that were the norm for tennis players around that time. This makes Macci question Richard’s action and whether it was in the best interest of the girls.
Richard’s attitude was not much different with his wife, Brandy (Aunjanue Ellis) who repeatedly reminds him to include her in major decisions about Venus and Serena. The first conflict that they have is when Richard, for not much of a reason decides to rebuke his two young daughters and Brandy literally forces him into submission. Similarly, when Richard consistently keeps denying offers for Venus to compete in different tournaments and even passes lucrative deals, Brandy is vocal in registering her oppositions. While whatever Richard does ultimately proves to be in the best interest of his daughters, Brandy is nevertheless vociferous in her protest to be more inclusive as she is her mother and must have her say. She even goes to the extent of explaining to Richard what it is that made her stay put with him, even though she had enough opportunities to look elsewhere. All these scenes may sound trivial and unnecessary but when they are rendered on the screen, they somehow feel exceptionally engaging and laced with emotional depth and dramatic power. A lot of that has to do with the kind of performances that Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis are able to put in.
Will Smith is phenomenal as Richard Williams. While he tries to emulate most of Richard Williams’ mannerisms and signature moves that many in the audiences will recall from different matches and the interviews, it must be noted that he brings his own character to the performance. This character is particularly visible in the scenes where he is shown taking on individual coaches who want to train his daughters in a certain way and how easily Richard dismisses them. I also loved the camaraderie that he shares with the actors who play his daughters and how beautifully he uses this ease and naturality in their exchanges to extract emotions from the audiences. Smith is able to successfully document the emotional turmoil of the man as he builds his daughter’s careers thoughtfully and fends off increasing demand for giving them more exposure and earning some quick bucks. I just loved the fact that Smith was so natural and engrossing in his essay that he not only left an indelible mark on the film (something that was expected) but did it with such ease, humility, and charm.
Aunjanue Ellis as Richard’s wife Brandy is equally potent. She adds a lot to the chemistry between the two and helps in creating some interesting dynamics as the film progresses. Jon Bernthal as Venus’ coach is terrific. One aspect of his performance that will be most noticeable will be his sense of disillusionment at all that he is made to go through by Richard who would not give up control of his daughter’s life even when Bernthal shows him opportunities and means of doing things that are key to ensuring that his daughters get the kind of future that he expects them to get. It is a treat to watch the two go at it against one another. Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as the Williams sister are effective in their portrayal of the legends and leave nothing to complain about.
King Richard may be a Will Smith show from start to finish but when it is this good, I see no reason to complain. One has to accept the fact that the director takes a focused look at all that Richard had to go through and made the people around him go through to build the careers of his daughters and the film is overwhelmingly successful in delivering that. I had a great time with this film and I believe that will be the case with one and all who accepts it for what it is.