KING RICHARD (2021) – My rating: 8.7/10

King Richard is a biographical drama film directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and written by Zach Baylin. It follows the life of Richard Williams who is the father and coach of famed tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, and also served as executive producers of the film. King Richard was theatrically released by Warner Bros. Pictures and HBO Max streaming Service in late 2021.  I thought the title was indicative of a period piece but happily learned King Richard is Richard Williams.  Very good story, just not enough content!

Richard Williams (Will Smith) lives in Compton, California with his wife Oracene “Brandy” Price (Aunjanue Ellis), his three step-daughters, Tunde Price (Mikayla LaShae Bartholomew), Isha Price (Danielle Lawson), and Lyndrea Price (Layla Crawford) as well as his two biological daughters, Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena Williams (Demi Singleton). Richard aspires to turn Venus and Serena into professional tennis players as he has prepared a plan for success since before they were born. Richard and Brandy coach Venus and Serena on a daily basis, while also working as a security guard and a nurse, respectively. Richard works tirelessly to find a professional coach for the girls, creating brochures and videotapes to advertise their skills, but has not had success.

Richard takes the girls to see coach Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn), who is in the middle of practicing with John McEnroe (Christopher Wallinger) and Pete Sampras (Chase Del Rey). Despite Paul’s initial reservations, he agrees to watch the girls practice and is impressed. However, the Williams family cannot afford professional coaching, and Paul refuses to coach both girls for free so he selects Venus who is the oldest, while Serena continues to practice with Brandy. Paul encourages Venus to participate in juniors tournaments. She quickly becomes a success so Richard stresses to Venus and her sisters to remain humble despite their success. At one of Venus’s tournaments, Serena also signs up to play, unbeknownst to Richard. As both girls continue to succeed, the family is treated as outsiders among the predominantly white, upper-class competition. Richard meets with high-profile agents, but, fearing that his daughters will be taken advantage of, pulls them out of the junior circuit entirely. Paul warns him that his decision will destroy the girls’ chances to turn pro, but Richard stands firm, firing Paul as their coach.

Coach Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal) travels to California to see the girls play. Impressed, he takes the girls on, and the family relocates to Florida so the girls could train at his facility. Richard surprises Rick by announcing that neither of the girls will play juniors. Instead, they will train and attend school like normal children.

King Richard captures the Williams sister’s remarkable tennis journey as they accomplished their impossible dream and how Richard and Brandy worked tirelessly to help Venus and Serena achieve stardom.  While Richard’s ideas, fears, and Blackness made his goals for the girls much harder than it should have been, they were able to get to the finish line anyway.  The epilogue reveals that nine months later, at the age of 15, Venus would sign a contract with Reebok for 12 million dollars (equivalent to $21,000,000 in 2020). She would go on to win Wimbledon five times and become the first African American woman to be ranked number one in the world during the Open Era. Serena, who joined Venus as a professional two years later, would become a 23-time Grand Slam champion and considered perhaps the greatest player in tennis history, Eureka! — just as Richard predicted. Watching this film really gave me a lot of insight into what it took for the Williams sisters to become the tennis stars they are today.  The story was well told and while I thought their dad was somewhat of a deadbeat, I found that he was far from how the media portrayed him.  King Richard is a very worthy movie.  Check It Out!

As of February 7, 2022, King Richard has grossed $14.9 million in the United States and Canada, and $18.5 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $33.4 million.  King Richard received four nominations at the 79th Golden Globe Awards (including Best Motion Picture – Drama), winning Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama for Will Smith.  On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 90% of 256 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website’s consensus reads, “King Richard transcends sport biopic formulas with refreshingly nuanced storytelling – and a towering performance from Will Smith in the title role.” King Richard is streaming on HBO MAX.

[KING RICHARD is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for Best: Picture, Actor, Supporting Actress, Film Editing, Original Song, and Writing: Original Screenplay — Totaling 6 Oscar Nominations]


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