Time: 145 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence & offensive language
Will Smith as Richard Williams
Aunjanue Ellis as Oracene “Brandy” Price
Saniyya Sidney as Venus Williams
Demi Singleton as Serena Williams
Tony Goldwyn as Paul Cohen
Jon Bernthal as Rick Macci
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Armed with a clear vision and a brazen, 78-page plan, Richard Williams is determined to write his two daughters, Venus and Serena, into history. Training on tennis courts in Compton, Calif., Richard shapes the girls’ unyielding commitment and keen intuition. Together, the Williams family defies seemingly insurmountable odds and the prevailing expectations laid before them.
I’ve been hearing about King Richard for the past months, especially in the lead up to awards season. I knew that essentially it was about Venus and Serena Williams and their father, who would be played by Will Smith (who was particularly getting awards hype). It looked like a typical sports biopic and while that mostly turned out to be the case, I thought it was pretty good.
It should be noted that this isn’t exactly a movie about Venus and Serena. King Richard is executively produced by both sisters and while the movie is about them to a degree, it is deliberately focused on their father Richard Williams, and how he helped their rise with his support and guidance. It does make it interesting to put it from the perspective of the father instead of the soon to be stars. As someone who knew about the two tennis players but didn’t know much about their stories, I found it interesting, and I was invested in what was happening. It is a sports biopic, but it is essentially a character study for the lead character, who is a complicated person. Despite it being a sports movie of sorts, it isn’t super focussed on the sports, and avoids most of the sports tropes. It is definitely firmly in the crowd pleaser category, and it’s a very effective feel-good movie. With that said its definitely not very special as far as biopics go. Its very by the numbers and cliché in many ways, there are conventional biopic tropes here and here, and there are big inspirational speeches and moments. There’s also dialogue that’s very unsubtle, especially about the sister being destined for greatness. Also it does seem very safe in parts, such as with the inner conflicts with Richard. With that said, it still has strong emotional beats and uplifting moments which really worked for me, so I was more than able to look past the sameness. King Richard is a very long movie at around 2 hours and 30 minutes, and after watching what I just saw, I thought that was a little excessive. With that runtime you would think that it would’ve focussed even more time on the sisters, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Even though I did like the movie and I wouldn’t say that I was that bored, the drawn out nature of the film turned out to be a determinant to it.
For as solid as the story and writing is, it’s really the great performances which make the film work as well as it does. Will Smith plays Richard Williams, and this very well could be the best performance of his career. Its a flawed and nuanced character he’s playing and fully invests himself into, and gives a commanding performance. It definitely doesn’t stop with him though, Aunjanue Ellis is great as Richard’s wife and the mother of the Williams sisters, and Jon Bernthal is really good as a tennis coach. There’s also Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton who play Venus and Serena Williams respectively, and they do great jobs at playing them. The second half has more of a focus on Venus, and Sidney plays her part very well.
The direction from Reinaldo Marcus Green wasn’t anything special, but competent enough by sports biopic standard. Its shot and edited quite well (length aside), and the scenes with tennis are well shot and given enough tension.
King Richard is a very familiar and typical inspirational sports biopic but its nonetheless quite good. I was invested in the story, it’s well made, and the performances from everyone were great and carried the film. I think it is worth watching at the very least.