King Richard is a movie title bestowed to Richard Williams, the father of tennis prodigies, Venus and Serena Williams. Whether or not he’s worthy of the title is something that the movie goer will have to decide and it’s worth checking out this teen friendly biopic.
King Richard covers what you already know in the 30 second life story of Venus and Serena Williams. Driven by a desire to make his girls world class athletes, Richard Williams plans and pushes to make his daughters tennis prodigies as they rise from the streets of Compton, CA, to a world stage.
What you may not know are all the details. Richard Williams was not a father who saw potential in his girls and encouraged them to try really hard and to overcome adversity. He was a dad with a plan. As was repeated over and over in the movie, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
His plan was to instill his athletic ability and prowess in his girls in a sport where they could make their mark. Looking at the world stage, he knew that African-American girls had yet to rise to greatness in tennis and set about making them the best in the world.
It was a plan. To create tennis superstars who cared about others, had respect for their family, and worked really hard.
It’s not the triumph over tragedy story you typically see in a biopic. It’s just the story of how a father, with all of his flaws, pushed to make his girls who they are today. And as an audience member, you’re rooting for all of them even when a few of the moments set you back just a bit.
Will Smith stars as Richard Williams, the father determined to create tennis stars. At first glance, I wondered if a smooth talking Will Smith could pull off an aging father raising his daughter in gang-riddled area of Los Angeles. Once you get past the prosthetic teeth and the vernacular, he really seems to embody the spirit of Richard Williams.
And although Smith has the starring role, the entire cast gives outstanding and completely believable performances. Standouts include Saniyya Sydney as Venus, Demi Singleton as Serena, and Jon Bernthal as Coach Rick Macci.
While tennis is the primary focus, you could also argue that it’s shared with family life. In fact, it’s the Williams family that shines through. Unbeknownst to me, Venus and Serena grew up with three half sisters in the household, from their mother’s first marriage. Watching the family dynamic was sometimes more fascinating than the rise through the tennis world.
Watch for the family scenes early on and keep your eye on Aunjanue Ellis as Oracene ‘Brandy’ Williams, the girls’ mother. Her performance is outstanding in the film.
Other faces you’ll recognize include Tony Goldwyn as Coach Paul Cohen and Dylan McDermott as Will Hodges.
My King Richard review
As a tennis parent, I’ve become a bit familiar with what the tennis world looks like. I honestly thought soccer parents were intense. But it’s the tennis parents that can drive harder and faster than others, and I don’t mean that in a good way.
I’m no mentor when it comes to my son’s sports but I do believe that it should always be in the best interest of the kids that are playing.
If I had to give any sort of criticism to the movie, I’d say that it portrays Richard Williams as tough but caring father who wants to push the girls to tennis stardom – but only when they’re ready and only if they really want it. I suspect Venus and Serena never had much of a choice. I suspect that they wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to walk away if they wanted. Because that wasn’t part of Richard’s plan.
He’s definitely a man with flaws. And while the movie makes sure that they show his infamous stubbornness (to the point that you’ll get annoyed with him!), it all works out in the end.
I’m sure it was a rockier path. I’m sure there were more tears and setbacks than the movie portrays. But in the end, he made a plan and it worked. And the rest is history.
Although the movie is a bit long at 2 hours and 18 minutes, it’s an enjoyable journey from the streets of Compton to the explosion of the tennis sensations onto the world stage. We don’t see excruciatingly unimportant details and it never takes too long to get to where it needs to go.
This is a great movie for families with kids 12 and up. There’s some violence but mainly the subject matter probably wouldn’t interest anyone younger.
Also, it’s worth staying through most of the credits which show actual footage from the Williams family that’s created shot by shot in the movie!