King Richard film review (2021)

King Richard is one of the most uplifting and entertaining films of the year. Will Smith’s performance as Richard Williams is his best in years, while Aunjanue Ellis is a revelation. Most importantly, it teaches the important lesson of speaking positivity and inspiring your children to reach great heights.

He’s done quite a few duds throughout his career, but I can’t help it. I’m always excited whenever a new Will Smith film is released, and since seeing the first trailer for King Richard, I knew this was going to be a special story. Sure enough, critics, and many other viewers, began raving about what a phenomenal film it is, so I just had to check it out. Truthfully, it’s up there with one of my favorite films of the year, and I’ve recommended it to just about everyone I know since it’s an incredibly uplifting and inspiring story.

King Richard tells the story of Richard Williams, the father of tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams, who are two of the greatest tennis players of all time. It shows his somewhat controversial methods, at least to some, in how he raised his children in order for them to achieve success, while also displaying the daily struggles they went through on a daily basis trying to find a trainer and living in Compton, California.

Immediately, what stands out the most is Smith’s performance as Richard. He’s absolutely fantastic in the role and he honestly hasn’t been this great since I Am Legend. At the same time, it isn’t very surprising since Smith tends to stand out with biopics. Movies such as Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness come to mind, where he respectively portrays boxing legend Muhammad Ali and homeless man turned stock broker/businessman Chris Gardner. As crazy and impossible as it may sound though, him as Richard Williams, in my opinion, surpasses the other two.

He definitely did his homework and studied this man in order to deliver the most accurate portrayal possible. I don’t think he necessarily looks like the actual Richard Williams, but his accent is almost spot on, as well as his pronunciation of words and how he speaks to people in general. What I love the most about it is the usual charisma and style Smith always has is still noticeable. It’s sort of difficult to explain, but it’s amazing how he’s able to get lost in playing a character while still reminding everyone of the Smith we’ve grown up to love watching in his movies.

As amazing as Smith is in this movie, and I truly believe he’ll get nominated for it, there’s another performance I believe trumps his, and it’s Aunjanue Ellis, who plays his wife, Oracene “Brandy” Price. She’s simply phenomenal in this role. What impressed me the most is, in fact, her interactions with Smith in the movie. Their dynamic is both interesting and compelling. As we all know, Richard Williams was a controversial and sometimes extreme individual, and that would make him clash with his wife from time to time due to some of the rash decisions he would make in regards to his daughters. There’s one specific scene where they’re in the kitchen of their home that’s absolutely chilling. As mentioned, she’s amazing in the entire film, but this one scene is more than enough for her to get some award recognition when the time comes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the two portrayals of Venus and Serena, played by Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton. The most shocking thing is how much Singleton looks like Serena. If you pull up a picture of Serena when she was a child and put it side by side, it’d be hard to tell the difference. Incredible casting. Their performances are great, too. They show off the childlike behaviors that’s expected of them, which is that sense of curiosity and adventure, but at the same time, they’re both deeply competitive and committed to accomplishing the plan their father set out for them, which is why they are where they are today. This is yet another nod to Smith’s performance because I feel the professionalism and experience he brings to this role helped both of them bring their absolute best. My only gripe is how Serena, in some ways, is sort of pushed to the side. In reality, this is more of Venus’ story than it is Serena’s. Then again, maybe it was meant to be told this way and I’m almost sure it’s based on true, actual events since both of them were heavily involved in the creative process of King Richard.

Credit has to be given to both trainers, Jon Bernthal and Tony Goodwyn, who played Rick Macci and Paul Cohen. I found some of their interactions with Richard to be hilarious and they provided most of the comedic relief in the film. It’s funny since they’re both professional trainers and as they’re working with Venus and Serena, Richard is always in the background giving his input and trying to micromanage everything. I loved seeing them get frustrated with him and not being able to do much about it since, at the end of the day, he is their father.

The messages the film touches on really impacted me. Being African-American parents, both Richard and Oracene went through a variety of struggles throughout their lives. Richard’s past is touched on a bit more, including being a victim of racism and not always having his parents around. He used all of these life experiences to help him grow and become the father he never had. I believe Venus, Serena, and the rest of his daughters owe quite a bit to their parents for the work they did raising them and helping them achieve everything they’ve accomplished. It also inspired and motivated me, as a viewer, to be the best husband I can be and, one day, the father my children will need.

King Richard is one of my favorite films of the year. It may be the one that inspired me the most and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to watch it. I do wish we would’ve seen a bit more of Serena Williams and her rise to glory, but overall, from the performances, to the story and themes, it’s a therapeutic and uplifting watch. If you haven’t seen it, please do.

Score: A

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