King Richard isn’t Will Smith’s first run-in with playing a real-life character or adaptation. We’ve loved him in films of the same genre like Six Degrees of Separation, Ali, and The Pursuit of Happyness—and his portrayal of Richard Williams is another win he can add to his metaphorical belt. I guess you could say, “where there’s a Will, there’s a way.”
King Richard is the story of Richard Williams’s determination for his daughters, Venus and Serena, to become tennis stars. He starts by training them as young children in Compton, LA—which typically gets a bad reputation, being known for violence within the community.
Various scenes show how dangerous the area truly is: In one scene we see Richard getting beaten by local gang members after he politely asks for them to leave him and his daughters alone while they practice. In spite of the degraded environment that his children grew up in, Richard is on a mission to find both Venus and Serena a professional trainer.
“They ain’t respect Richard Williams, but they gone respect you” was the first and most memorable quote of the film for me. Yes, of course there was constant the occasional uplifting words exchanged between the group of characters, but this one stuck. Whatever it may be that people think of Richard, or how he grew to be the man he was, he knew he could raise his children to have better than he could even imagine.
While he discusses the “plans” he has for both Venus and Serena, we also find that Richard Williams is either absolutely crazy, or just a genius. …Or both? Throughout the film we see his narrow mindedness and inability to accept rejection from others get the better of him and the decisions that he makes for his family.
We’re never given a clear understanding if King Richard sees him as the latter or the former. Regardless of what kind of cliffhanger this leaves us at, his relationships with his daughter are positive, so I doubt they would allow any film that shows him otherwise. Some may call him a lunatic or one of the smartest men that they know, either way, his plans for his daughters came to fruition.
Co-star Aunjanue Ellis cannot go unmentioned, thanks to the sassy and tenacious fire she brings to Brandi Williams. Throughout the film, she seems to be one of the voices of reason that Richard might listen to. With her stern voice and beautifully serious tone, she exudes confidence that won’t go unheard.
This dynamic duo will eventually share the outstanding performer of the year award at the 37th Santa Barbara International Film Festival in March of next year. If that doesn’t let you know how well they developed and perfected their talent within King Richard then I don’t know what else will.
Though both stars hold major weight to the film, the highlights were, of course, Venus (portrayed by Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (portrayed by Demi Singleton). Though the film is titled after their father, Venus’ portrayal in the film takes the driver’s seat once the focus is fully on the two prodigies.
While she doesn’t have many speaking lines (possibly due to Smith’s character being the decision-maker), her action sequences on the tennis court speak volumes. Having to play a tennis match as a young amateur, yet future pro, is no small task. Both actresses had to train and perform with a level of mastery to be believed and keep an audience captivated! They succeeded with flying colors.
Smith brings a surprising level of humor to such a dramatic role and considering the films two plus hour run-time, that levity helps keep things moving. Though the hilarity of the film is significant, it doesn’t diminish the seriousness and reality of the events that happened. King Richard was much more than just a film about a father coaching his children to success. It was a story of triumph amongst those who call you “crazy” for denying any opportunity that comes your way in hopes of something better. It’s a film about believing even when people say you can’t, and for that, Richard has my #respect.
Overall, I can give King Richard 4 out of 5 stars! I would definitely recommend watching it and probably will go see it again once it hits the theaters.
King Richard will be in theaters and HBO Max on November 19, 2021.