King Richard reminds me of a few references like the legendary cricketer Viv Richards because he is often called King of Cricket since his 1987 documentary and William Shakespeare‘s plays Richard II and III. For the South Asian audience, King Richard will make them think of the film being the American answer to Bollywood’s Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal, also based on a real-life story.
For me, as a huge tennis fan, who was blessed to watch this beautiful sport on television since 1992 and was lucky to have watched many great legends since then, I do understand the contribution of the William sisters who dominated in tennis for more than a decade especially Serena. Therefore, a film about them became necessary to watch. But for me, the surprising factor was that the film was centered around their father Richard Williams so I assumed that the real-life story has to be that compelling to focus on him rather than his daughters. I had never known the backstory before they became the legends and now after watching the film, I am touched.
King Richard is basically about a crazy-a** visionary paterfamilias who had, believe it or not, devised a 78-page plan about his two daughters to transform them into highly successful tennis stars, wait for it, even before they, I mean Venus and Serena, were born. Yes, there is a father who wrote a success story even before bringing them to the earth. How insanely willful, confident and determined will he be?!? The film shows his strict personal and sports discipline and training about his daughters, how he shapes their careers, and what difficulties, racial problems, and Compton’s rough life does he face during all that time.
The biggest plus about the film is that about 90% of the screenplay, the incidents, and the important events are all historically accurate making you trust the presentation. The film is majorly plotted from Richard Williams’ autobiography Black and White: The Way I See It. Therefore the film is compelling and the pace keeps you attentive to the continuity, especially in the middle of the film.
Will Smith for his leading role as Richard Williams is considered highly certain to take the Best Actor award at the upcoming Oscar function. Honestly, to my surprise, the performance wasn’t really that wow to consider him one of the best from 2021. I have watched better performances from Will before, most significantly The Pursuit of Happiness was a far better performance than this. He didn’t meet any challenging segment of performance in the entire film, besides the scene where the Child Protective Services enter their house. In fact, it is Jon Bernthal‘s supporting role of Rick Macci that has me taken aback. The usually tough-guy image of Jon is completely switched to a friendly ever-smiling softhearted coach and I cannot believe how well did he perform this. This performance is quite different than he usually does.
Although I find the film very touching and impresses me with its being accurate, unfortunately, there are some strong issues that drop this real-life sports drama at loose ends. Let me explain to you why. The film focuses on Richard Williams as a dedicating father but does not touch on his ‘other’ issues like his role in business, his past marriages, and his fatherly role for the other daughters. Venus-Serena chemistry is horribly lacking. Despite the fact that the father prioritizes career of Venus over Serena, there is no sign of emotional breakdown between the sisters. Their being besties, even in such difficult changing times, look flat, no changing gears. The other daughters were completely extras and hype girls, absolutely no sign of their role as sisters. There should have been some detailing about why the parents preferred to focus more on Venus and Serena than the rest of their children. Maybe the film misses all these points deliberately because the William sisters are the executive producers.
But it is not like if Richard Williams is depicted as the holy father with no indication of making wrong choices. There are heated exchanges of him with his wife where we discover his dark side. The film shows his anger and stubbornness. His controversial decision to pull his daughters out of the junior tennis circuits is dramatized in a way that looks like his father did make a wrong decision about their careers and lives.
But the message of the film is conveyed to the audience. The cinematic portrayal of this father and his dedication and building two legendary careers from the courts of Compton was highly paramount.