“King Richard” is the big screen adaptation of Richard Williams’ vision (and his 78-page plan!) on how to nurture his daughters, Venus and Serena Williams, to be the greatest to ever do it on a tennis court.
Time tells us that he succeeded, but for the first time we get to see on the big screen, the sacrifices, tenacity, and sheer talent that helped them triumph.
King Richard should clean up come Oscar season, no bias. We dare you not to experience every emotion watching this film.
Based on the true story of the William’s family, King Richard takes us through Venus and Serena’s early training and coaching by their father in Compton in California’s abandoned tennis courts – come rain or shine. The girls are shaped by their father’s unyielding commitment and their mother’s balanced perspective and keen intuition, defying the seemingly insurmountable odds and prevailing expectations laid before them.
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Richard, played by Oscar nominee Will Smith, painstakingly captures Mr Williams mannerisms, speech and all-round intensity when it comes to his daughters. A lifelong fan of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, gratifyingly, there was no sign of this alter ego in Smith’s performance, as he tackled the intensity and doggedness of Mr Williams character.
Fans of the William’s sisters will have seen the clips and footage of how Richard moulded his girls, protected them from thoughtless journalists in interviews and encouraged them to be the best. It was another thing to see where this intensity was coming from and how it was coming from a place of love and determination that all of his girls would succeed at what they set out for in life. The accolades for Richard Williams are well deserved and his heart was certainly in the right place, but this film didn’t paint a hero. It showed us a real, fully dimensional person, with flaws and fears.
The film was incredibly well-cast, with the actresses playing Venus Williams (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena Williams (Demi Singleton), aside from bearing a genuine resemblance to the tennis champions, also displaying the optimism and quiet strength that both Serena and Venus exude in real life. We know it’s acting, but they also really served the power behind their tennis playing on screen.
However, for me the standout performance was delivered by Aunjanue Ellis, who played Venus and Serena’s mum, Oracene “Brandy” Williams. We became lifelong fans of Aunjanue after watching her in Lovecraft Country where she played Hippolyta Freeman. In King Richard Her quiet strength and steadfast support of her husband and the championing of her daughters, just as much as Richard, was heartening to see and the first time we have seen acknowledged.
The depiction of Richard and Oracene’s relationship was steeped in an authentic and beautiful way. The tacit support of her spouse in public, while tackling the things she didn’t agree with in private was skilfully represented. Likewise, her protectiveness of her daughters from anyone and everyone.
We give ‘five stars’ to this Reinaldo Marcus Green-directed production. Will Smith served as one of the film’s producers and Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Jada Pinkett Smith, Isha Price are among the list of executive producers.
King Richard is slated for international theatrical release beginning 18 November 2021.