REVIEW: King Richard

If you were to look at me, you’d immediately think, “Ah. There’s a guy who doesn’t like sport.”

And you’d be absolutely right in thinking so. After all, I’m a bloke who moans about movies on the internet. Of course I don’t like sport.

And yet, for some reason, whenever Wimbledon comes round, something inside me fires up, and I become the Rain Man of tennis. Maybe it’s roar of the British crowds.

Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s not frowned upon to eat tub-after-tub of cream. (Yes. I eat just the cream and no strawberries. So sue me.)

So you can imagine my giddy hysteria when I was given a copy of King Richard on DVD to review; I have always been in awe of the Williams sisters, and this was one hell of an insight as to how they become two of the most successful sportspeople in history.

This biopic follows Richard Williams’ (Will Smith) attempts to cement his daughters, Venus and Serena, into the tennis history books, as he trains them tirelessly through rain and shine. Quite literally.

I can’t stress how well acted this film is. I mean, King Richard currently has two acting Academy Award nominations, so I’m hardly the first to come up with that hot take, but Will Smith is just sublime in this. Even my girlfriend who – sorry if you’re reading this, Big Will – finds Will Smith “untalented,” was left so impressed by his performance as the titular Richard. It takes a real master of their craft to make an audience feel empathetic towards a character who was notoriously so difficult. Will’s portrayal is really fascinating to watch; you can feel the desperation he feels, and his chemistry with his co-stars is amazing.

In fact, I was half going into this expecting to almost be bored by Richard – we get it; you’re a dad who wants his kids to play tennis… And that is it. Like, my Dad wanted me to do a lot more than that – mainly, stop creating a wife and kids for myself on The Sims – but they didn’t make a whole biopic about him, did they? And yet, despite how single-minded Richard was, I was just so captivated.

As I was with the rest of the cast. It was refreshing to see Jon Bernthal play the upbeat, cheesy Rick Macci, as opposed to some variation of his character in The Walking Dead. Aunjanue Ellis was also incredible; for those who have seen the film will immediately jump to her standout scene, where she confronts Richard, tearfully explaining how she committed her life to training her daughters too; and that it wasn’t just Richard.

In fact, it’s a true testament to the entire cast’s acting abilities, that as I watched King Richard, I felt sorry for the characters failures. During scenes where Venus would lose an important match, or Serena was unable to train with a professional coach because of her family’s income, I felt so sad for them… As if I didn’t already know that those two would go on to become two of – if not the most successful sportswomen in the game of tennis.

Not only is the acting phenomenal, but the tennis, itself, is beautifully shot and well edited. I still don’t know if the matches were CGI, or if Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton (who played Venus and Serena Williams, respectively) are just incredible athletes as well as actors. If so, I’m genuinely scared they’ve left no talent for anyone else.

My only criticism is one that many, many people have shared before me. Why focus on the male figure; quite literally naming the film after him, when there’s Venus and Serena that you could base the biopic on? I can only believe that they did this, firstly, for the star power and the chance to get some Oscar nominations under their belt, and because, by the looks of it, Venus and Serena played professional tennis at very different stages in their lives, making the movie more difficult to make, with two stories to tell. But, at this point, it’s a complete guess. This is why I never made it as a lawyer, and had to settle for being a bang-average movie critic instead.

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