A surprise to some, “King Richard,” directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, does not tell the story of Serena and Venus Williams but instead, it tells the story of their father, Richard Williams, played by Will Smith.
Richard, the film’s namesake, comes from rags and does not want that future for his daughters. That’s why he uses his and his wife’s (Aunjanue Ellis) tennis skills to devise an 85-page plan for his two youngest, Serena (Demi Singleton) and Venus (Saniyya Sidney) to become the world’s best tennis players.
Richard is raising a family in Compton, California, a city infiltrated with gangs and faced with high crime and poverty rates. Richard sees how easily one can fall into the wrong lifestyle, and he works to ensure his daughters rise above it.
Tennis isn't all he teaches them.
This father, like many, is huge on life lessons. For example, he would not tolerate the bragging his daughters were doing following a tennis win. He wants them to be humble and not become women who do not know where they came from.
Being a Black man in the late 1980s to early 1990s, Richard faces quite a bit of ridicule, whether it's from his neighbors or the renowned tennis coaches he asks to train his daughters for free. His character is realistic to the bone; he is a flawed man who can let his ego get in the way, but deep down, he is a father who has dedicated his life to the success of his daughters. What makes him different from other tennis parents is that he cares about his girls’ childhoods—so much so, that he takes Venus out of junior tennis matches so that she could focus on school, family, friends and simply having fun.
So, what makes this movie worth watching, even for non-tennis players? Its relatability.
Not all of us play tennis. Heck, the only time I’ve even lifted a racquet was in my high school P.E. sports class. “King Richard” does a phenomenal job at keeping everyone in the audience entertained and interested in the production by making the Williams family like any other one.
The bond between all five of the sisters is immaculate and one that many wish they had with their own sisters. In the film, we see Serena step into her older sister’s shadow for a little while (although we know that she ends up jumping out of it quite fast). Instead of resenting Venus, Serena is genuinely happy for her and proud of her accomplishments.
In addition, since “King Richard” is set in a time in which technology was not in the hands of adults and kids alike, seeing the girls interact with one another brings about a sense of nostalgia.
Richard is like any other dad—with a few exceptions and quirks, of course, as most dads do not create 85-page plans for their daughters’ tennis careers from when they were in the womb. Like anyone else in his place, he desires for his daughters to know their strength, instilling confidence in them from day one. Richard makes it obvious that he has faith in them, but he emphasizes the importance of them having faith in themselves.
Which, they do. When asked if she could win a certain match, Venus responds with “I know I can.”
A downside to this movie is that it can get a tad repetitive. It follows a cycle—there is a problem, the problem gets solved, there is another problem, the problem gets solved, and so on and so forth—and this cycle lasts 144 minutes. There is an almost three-year time jump in the middle, though, which I personally was quite thankful for.
With that being said, “King Richard” is still worth watching.
The main reason is because of how absolutely heartwarming it is. From familial love to the emotional triumphs and defeats in the tennis world, “King Richard” is sure to bring a smile to your face and maybe even some tears to your eyes, especially when you witness little girls chanting Venus’ name in the closing scene of the film.
The one thing that can destroy an entire movie, no matter how excellent it may have been, is the ending, specifically if the film does not come full circle. “King Richard” certainly did not have this issue, however, as in the last scene, Venus and Serena’s coach, Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal), told Richard “Thank you, Richard. She did it,” coming back to the foundation of the film.
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