‘King Richard’ Serves Up an Ace


Warner Bros. Entertainment

The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards.

Kishore Annambhotla, Entertainment and Our World Editor

As far as biopics go, “King Richard” has quickly established itself as one of the best films in the genre. Between its powerful performances and thrilling tennis scenes, it’s hard to find flaws in this feel-good film.

“King Richard” is the fifth film by director Reinaldo Marcus Green, best known for his 2018 drama “Monsters and Men.” This is his third full-length film and second biopic. “King Richard” premiered worldwide at the 48th Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2021, and was released theatrically on November 19, 2021. The film stars Will Smith as Richard Williams, the father and coach of tennis greats Venus Williams (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena Williams (Demi Singleton).

“King Richard” follows Richard Williams’ path in raising and coaching his daughters to be the best tennis players in the world. Throughout the film, he clashes with his daughters’ coaches, juggles work and family, and dodges danger in the streets of Compton, California.

The entire film is well made, but its highlight is Will Smith’s outstanding performance as Richard Williams. Smith perfectly captures Williams’ determined personality and fatherly behavior. After recent underwhelming performances, his latest role may put him in contention for Best Actor at the Academy Awards in March. According to Smith, his connection to Williams inspired the award-worthy performance.

“I felt like I knew him immediately,” Smith said in an interview with USA Today. “He’s very similar to my father in some ways. I understood what it meant to feel brutalized by the world and to have a dream that nobody believes in but you, and you’re not going to let that deter you. I got the heart of him.”

It certainly helps Smith that Williams is such an inspiring figure, especially in his support for his children. At one point, several young men begin harassing Williams’ stepdaughter, Yetunde Price. When Williams tells them to apologize, they beat him mercilessly. Yet, despite his humiliation, Williams reinforces his commitment to protecting his daughters: “This world ain’t never had no respect for Richard Williams. But they going to respect y’all. They going to respect y’all.”

Smith is not the only actor to shine in their role. Child actresses Sidney and Singleton are similarly captivating, with their best moments showing up on the court. A climactic match at the end of the film showcases this; they move and play with genuine skill, and every ball strike feels real.

Despite the standout acting, “King Richard” falls short in a few areas. The lack of attention given to Serena Williams’ story may disappoint viewers, especially considering that she established herself as the dominant sister in tennis. However, Venus was successful during their junior careers, explaining Green’s decision to focus on her.

A larger issue is the director’s lack of consideration for Williams’ negative traits. At the beginning of the film, I thought that Williams was stubborn and controlling of those around him. By the end of the film, I felt that Williams never really experienced character growth. Sabrina Williams, a half-sister to Venus and Serena, slammed the film’s portrayal of her father, calling it “outrageous” and only “half the story.”

“He’s not the king of the world,” Sabrina said in an interview with The Sun. “If you look at him psychologically, it’s something he’s never achieved apart from in his head, he’s lived only through two of his daughters forsaking all his other children.”

Despite these flaws, the film still shines in almost every way. I don’t think it would be surprising for “King Richard” to dominate upcoming award shows. Even if you aren’t interested in biopics, I highly recommend watching this winner of a film.