From the Fresh Prince, to the King of tennis. Will Smith delivers the performance of his career at the perfect time in his life. One of the years best, a heartfelt, hilarious and emotional journey that showcases just how remarkable the story of Serena and Venus Williams really was.
A look at how tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams became who they are after the coaching from their father Richard Williams
The American dream, everyone has one. For Richard Williams it was to raise the greatest two women’s tennis players to ever walk the Earth. In a time when tennis was portrayed as a predominately white sport, they were walking uphill to begin with. From Compton to the biggest stage, the remarkable story of this family is inspirational to say the least. Sports movies can always come across as such cliches, something that always has a “happy ending.” One thing I really liked about King Richard was how raw and authentic it was and it really doesn’t sugar coat anything. One of the best sports movies in recent memory and one of the strongest films of 2021.
This family had to fight for everything they had and Richard (Will Smith) was always front and centre. He was different, he was doing things his way. It was the definition of his way or the highway. In a time of crazy sports Dads, at the time, the media and people around Richard truly didn’t understand his madness or just how much he was sacrificing for his family. He was a mad scientist who always had a plan for his daughters and nothing would stop that plan from happening. He was hard on his kids, but in the best way possible. Hard working, good grades, humble, polite, everything you want to teach your kids. He just wanted to keep his kids off the streets and propel them into a better life. That should be the goal for any parent, provide a better life for your children then you ever had. I would say Richard and his wife Brandy (Aunjanue Ellis) achieved just that.
That’s where this movie begins, on the shoulders of Richard and Brandy Williams. Will Smith gives a memorable performance, the best of his career. What I loved most about it, it didn’t feel like Will Smith. He’s a megastar, bigger than most of the movies he is in. He’s a classic actor, he rarely changes his appearance, he’s just Will Smith in everything he does, but not here. He transforms into Richard Williams, and I was blown away. He does a few things, whether it’s his voice work, the way he walks, or the way he appears like sometimes he’s not all there. I’m just so happy he has finally given the definitive performance of his career, because it was beautiful. His counterpart Aunjanue Ellis is a strong female lead. Giving us the most impactful and emotional monologue of the film that serves a reminder that no matter how much Richard was in the forefront, he did not do this alone. Brandy is a strong and smart women, who helped mould all of her daughters into the impactful women they are today.
One thing that people need to realize, Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) wanted to tell this story. They were proudly behind this project from the very get-go. Just because they are not in the forefront of the movie, doesn’t mean they aren’t a big part of it. Their father did so much for them, that they wouldn’t be who they are today without them and they wanted to showcase this to the world. Both girls who represent these world class athletes are fantastic. Just not with their acting chops but with their tennis abilities. They are going toe-to-toe with some terrific actors in this. The movie just feels so 90’s, from the cinematography, the outfits, how Richard feels about country clubs and rich white folks. It all feels so blended together and so naturally, unlike some more recent sports movies, this just feels like it’s on another level. Some truly fantastic visuals, that make it feel like a real awards contender. The thing that I was most impressed with, the actual tennis scenes. They are filmed so well, not many cuts and edits, they really let these ladies go out and play. The thing with most sports movies or shows, they don’t actually showcase the cast playing the sport the movie is about. They went out and got real tennis players to help elevate this movie and it works. Even Jon Bernthal comes in for half the movie and gives a different performance. He’s an energetic tennis coach, that has the best moustache in 2021. We are so used to him being a cold character, or a bad ass, and this was just a fun performance from a really great actor.
Emotional beats throughout help separate this from just the generic sports flick. There are two scenes in particular that, in my mind, the film needed and wouldn’t come across as successful if they don’t put them in there. You are reminded how hard it can be and will always be for black families in America and some families need to go the extra mile every single day to sometimes provide just safety and food for their kids. I loved how they didn’t shy away from where they came from and how hard they had, 5 girls in one bedroom, problems on the streets and potential dangers around every corner.
Reinaldo Marcus Green is an upcoming young and impressive director, again, this is an elevated sports drama. He brings something new and brought one hell of a cinematographer with him. I hope we can celebrate with Will Smith during awards season, because I think it’s just his time. This is a must see and honestly my favourite movie of the year.
King Richard = 91/100