Most biopic films taking place in the world of sports usually focuses on the athlete, but King Richard takes a different approach to that kind of storytelling. Rather than being a film about tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, the main star of this sports drama is about their father and coach Richard Williams. Portrayed by Will Smith, this is yet another movie that will go down as perhaps one of the actor’s finest roles to date. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, King Richard puts in the work by showcasing a father who, despite all odds against him and his family, manages to put his daughters into the spotlight to make them into the most prominent sports figures in tennis history.
Richard Williams is an important figure in the world of tennis despite some of the controversy that surrounded him in the later years. However, the film puts its focus on his earlier life as he coaches his daughters in their local tennis court with a plan in motion to help them become the best that they can be. The film sees the hardships that Richard faces as he tries to put his daughters on the path that he sets out for them in order to become the tennis legends that we know now. Richard wastes no time in making Venus and Serena household names as he attempts to find coaches to train them for free. Richard knows the importance of letting his daughters focus on their studies as well as having a normal life while they still can. He has a vision for his kids, which often can take a toll when clashing with his wife Oracene “Brandy” Price (Aunjanue Ellis) and coach Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal) on what’s best for his daughters.
We do get teased a bit of the marriage woes that go on between Richard and Brandy, but it never overshadows what he does to get his daughters ready for what’s about to come to them in the competitive world of sports. We tend to get pieces of his family life, but never enough to fully grasp Richard as a full character, but we do get to see the complex nature of this man with all his flaws. We see more of the sports side of the story, but not on a personal level. The film doesn’t tend to go as deep as it should, but we do get glimpses of his backstory through stories we hear from Richard to his daughters. When we get to that part of the story, it reveals more of what drove Richard on this path for his daughters.
Smith manages to bring out the tough love that Richard brings out to his daughters and we also see the humorous and caring side of him as well. This role is tailor-made for someone like Smith, who has in the past put out a lot of drama and comedy into his characters. King Richard uses Smith’s talents to bring those personalities to the screen without losing sight on who Richard is. Even though we don’t get enough scenes with her, Ellis puts in enough effort to showcase the strong mother figure that Brandy is to her kids. Even Bernthal gives it his all as the girls’ coach who often clashes with Richard regarding Venus and Serena’s future in tennis.
Even though the film’s script tends to be a bit predictable at times, the story is nonetheless inspiring. It’s incredible to know that there is a film that focuses on following your dreams, no matter what background or race you come from. It's the kind of story that big studios take a huge gamble on and relates really well to the masses. This puts more hope on having stories like these being told on the big screen from major studios like Warner Bros.
King Richard gets to become the feel-good sports film that is charming and heartwarming despite never fully living up to its full potential regarding the story. Smith’s solid performance should earn him accolades for portraying the man who helped shaped two of tennis’ biggest stars. The film gives a portrayal of Richard as someone who has struggled to give Venus and Serena a chance at greatness in the tennis world, but it seems like we don’t get the full story. It’s not a biopic on Richard by any means, but it's a story of a man with a plan to put his daughters out into the world and making them into one of the greatest athletes in sports history. With that in mind, it’ll be enough to be an incredible story that will captivate audiences.
King Richard releases in theaters and on HBO Max on November 19th, 2021.
Movie Reviewed by TANTV Entertainment Journalist, Mufsin Mahbub. Follow him on Twitter @MufsinM.