I stumbled upon some tickets to an early screening of Will Smith’s new film, King Richard; just added movie critic to my repertoire. The film is a bio-pic on Richard Williams, the father of tennis mega stars Venus and Serena Williams. Let me start by saying this is a must see. Will Smith delivered a convincing performance. We all know this isn’t Will’s first rodeo in the bio-pic arena (Ali, Pursuit of Happyness) and he didn’t disappoint. He channeled all his bio-pic powers to deliver a human and relatable Richard Williams, right down to the walk, quirks and mannerisms.
I was pleased Mr. Williams was depicted as more than a cantankerous, overbearing, self-serving, opportunistic parent living vicariously through his daughters. Instead we got to see a complex human, a father, a provider, and protector in King Richard. Maybe I saw all of this because of my personal experience. My father taught my twin sister and I how to play tennis as well. We played competitively for many years as well. We were nowhere as talented as Serena or Venus, that kind of talent is God-sent.
KING RICHARD Reviews
Their story parallels my own experience in so many ways. We share the same faith, we grew up in some of the roughest areas of the country and we played a game most people deemed a “white person’s sport”. Little black girls playing tennis in Compton or Bedstuy Brooklyn wasn’t as normal as it is today. Black tennis stars were few and far between. Yes we had Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe but that’s more or less where the buck stopped. You had to be a real visionary to see yourself excelling in a sport where no one looked like you.
If Richard Williams was nothing else he was a visionary. In real life we know he was a hot mess express, a visionary but a hot mess just the same. The film details the families struggles with life in the hood and it doesn’t get any more hood than Compton, LA in the 80s/90s. Gang violence was at an all-time high, crack-cocaine ravaged black and brown communities, and police brutality was the order of the day. Making sure all 5 of your daughters made it out unscathed was a tall order for any man. Mr. Williams rose to the occasion, he had a plan. He was the only one who was aware of the plan at times but he had one.
One of the highlights of the film for me was how fiercely he protected Venus during an interview with a reporter. The reporter questioned Venus’ confidence in her abilities. She answered confidently perhaps too confidently for teenage girl, so the reporter prodded at her a bit more. And that’s when King Richard stepped in and let him know who he was dealing with, a young girl, a young black girl, who answered his question and because she seemed too confident in her response he needed to bring her down a peg, almost bringing her back to reality. To be fair to the reporter, Venus hadn’t played competitively in a long time but it’s was pretty clear to anyone with eyes she was as an elite athlete and had every right to be as confident in her ability. He learned the hard way, leave it at asked and answered sir, thank you.
The film also touches on Serena living in Venus’ shadow for a bit and how Richard seemingly favored Venus. As a casual observer I’d say that tracks, but not entirely accurate. Venus was older and at the time the opportunities for her were rip for the picking. However that didn’t mean Serena’s talents were always being developed and sharpened. I think it’s safe to say Mr. Williams knew she was going to be G.O.A.T.
All in all I think the movie did what was it was suppose to do, entertain us. Every aspect of Mr. Williams life and character couldn’t possibly be captured in a 2 hour film, no one’s life could. What the film did do exceedingly well, is show little black girls, anything is possible. Little black girls like my daughter Laila.
On the Riide Home
So, on the ride home, I asked Laila if she liked the movie and with a level of enthusiasm Laila seldom displays for anything, she answered “I loved it, I think I want to play tennis mommy, I think I can do it”. And that right there folks is why representation is SOOOOOO important. It’s why seeing people who look like you reach heights you were told were too high for you, excel and exceed, is crucial. It’s the reason our stories should be told so the next generation has the confidence to dream and dream big.
All the actors in the movie did an amazing job, Aunjanue Ellis as Brandi (I could write a book on her performance), Will Smith as Richard, Saniyya Sidney as Venus and Demi Singleton as Serena (both these ladies are rising stars). The filmmakers definitely left the door open for more. Perhaps telling Venus and Serena’s stories individually. Two stories worth being told. It’s a must see in my book. The movie premieres November 19th in theatres and on HBO Max.
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2 thoughts on “KING RICHARD”
Good read! I’m compelled to take a watch now.
Mission accomplished. You really should give it a look.