Half biopic and half sports drama, the fascinating true story of Serena and Venus Williams’ incredible tennis careers is masterfully brought to the silver screen by director Reinaldo Green. The film tells an inspiring tale of rising from the bottom to “queen of the court” through one’s own perseverance. Starring notable actors such as Will Smith, Jon Bernthal, and Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard fully immerses the audience into the childhood of the Williams sisters, and into the masterful planning provided by their father, Richard Williams.
King Richard takes place in the early ‘90s, beginning with Richard Williams (Will Smith), father of Serena (Demi Singleton) and Venus (Saniyya Sidney) Williams, searching for coaches to train his daughters. With limited resources and the odds against them, Richard teaches Serena and Venus himself until pro coach Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn) agrees to take the sisters under his wing. As Venus begins to compete in junior matches, her fame increases, and her skill in tennis grows.
Richard’s mindset and actions dealing with the fame of his daughters are the basis of the film, as his decisions for their lives brew conflict within their relationship. True to the real life story, Richard pushes his daughters to be the best, and through his hard work and determination they become what he always dreamed for them to be: tennis legends.
In King Richard, Smith’s acting surpasses greatness, elevating to a legendary status. He gives an unbelievable performance as Richard Williams, becoming unrecognizable throughout the film as he slips into the role seamlessly. Smith evokes a warm and charming fatherly vibe in the role, and inspires thought, courage, and perseverance through his portrayal. Smith’s range is truly tested, as the characters’ vulnerability and unwavering facade of complete confidence is a feat to convey, one which Smith does with apparent ease. Whether it be moments of comedy or moments of heart-to-heart emotion, Smith gives one of the greatest performances of the year, one which will go down in cinema history, to replicate the fatherly love and adherence Richard had for his family and tennis.
The film does a remarkable job of immersing the story in the setting of the early ‘90s, as the clothing, cars, music, and pop culture all invoke a strong sense of nostalgia. King Richard not only tackles the sports climate at the time, but other prevalent American issues in the decade, such as gender and race discrimination. With heavy overtones of the troubles that existed and still do exist in the U.S, the film molds an inspiring view of the human spirit as Serena and Venus rise to the top against all odds.
King Richard proves to be an unexpected yet welcome masterpiece from Smith, and for any tennis, sports, or movie fans, it’s a must see of 2021. King Richard is available to stream on HBO Max until Dec. 19.