King Richard, rated PG-13
King Richard is based on the true story of Richard Williams, the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams. Two-time Oscar nominee Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness, Ali), does an excellent job portraying the at times stubborn, not necessarily likeable, and hard to understand Williams. The film was directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (Joe Bell), and written by Zach Baylin.
Richard Williams is married to Oracene “Brandy”, played by two-time Emmy nominee Aunjanue Ellis (Lovecraft Country, When They See Us). They live with their five daughters in Compton, though there is reference that Richard has other children from prior relationships. Both parents work hard to provide for their family. Richard works at night as a security guard and Brandy works during the day as a nurse. As parents they put their daughters’ future success first, be it in sports or otherwise. They make sure the girls do their homework and get excellent grades and the family is involved in the Kingdom Hall as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The film is set in the early 1990’s. Throughout the film, we hear that Richard has a plan for Venus, played by Saniyya Sidney (Fences), and Serena, played by Demi Singleton. He tells Venus that she will one day be the number one female tennis player in the world, and he tells Serena that she will be known as the greatest women’s tennis player of all time. We see him daily drive Venus and Serena to the local run-down tennis courts to train and coach them. At times, Richard is beat up as he defends his girls from young men in the neighborhood looking for trouble. We also see a neighbor across the street that has something against the Williams family, but we are never told what it is or why.
Richard is very protective of Venus and Serena and persistent. After many attempts to do so, he finally convinces top tennis coach Paul Cohen, played by Tony Goldwyn, to coach Venus at no cost. Later, Richard surprisingly fires Cohen and negotiates a deal with coach Rick Macci, played by Jon Bernthal. to coach both girls and provide the family a nice place to live in Florida and a job for Richard.
At the same time, we see Richard himself often being interviewed by the media about his controversial handling of his tennis playing daughters. It never seems like the girls want anything else but to be top tennis players, but one could also see this as a story about a driven father pushing his daughters to success for some of his own gratification and resulting benefit. At times it feels like these two daughters are just commodities to him. We also wonder about how the other three girls feel about the seemingly preferred treatment that Venus and Serena get from their parents.
Content concerns include beatings, a shooting, racism and some adult language.
Themes include race, love for family, and a plan for success.
King Richard is a well-made film about how Richard Williams and his wife had a plan for their young daughters Venus and Serena. Will Smith delivers an outstanding performance as the at times hard to like and understand Richard Williams.