“King Richard” is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men, Top Boy) and stars Will Smith (Suicide Squad, Wild Wild West), Aunjanue Ellis (Girls Town, Lovecraft Country), Saniyya Sidney (The Passage, Hidden Figures), Demi Singleton (Godfather of Harlem, Goldie), Tony Goldwyn (Scandal, Ghost), and Jon Bernthal (The Punisher, Ford v Ferrari) in a film where we see the childhood lives of Venus and Serena Williams, two people who have become tennis professionals, through the eyes of their father, Richard.
Before we go any further, I want to give a shoutout to actress Erin Cummings, who has a small role in the film. I watch her almost every other time she appears on the YouTube series “The John Campea Show,” so I want to spread my support. I enjoyed seeing her in this film. I have nothing positive or negative to say about her performance, after all, she’s only around for a minute, but I just wanted to say, “go Erin!” Anyway, on with the review.
I saw this film at a press screening back in November and I was not surprised to be able to get a seat looking back, after all, this is a Warner Brothers film, and all of the Warner Brothers films to hit theaters in 2021 also made a simultaneous debut on HBO Max. I guess some people just wanted to skip this film to watch it at home. I’m sitting here as a critic trying to give you a good reason to go see this film immediately. Given how it is now off HBO Max, I might as well suggest why you should watch it in theaters… And compared to some other films out this year, I cannot come up with many. This is not a bad film by any means, but there are certain aspects about it that stand out more than others.
This is a rather oddball way to tell the story of two tennis icons. You might be thinking, oh my god! Serena and Venus Williams! I cannot wait to see how they became who they were! Sure, you get that. But keep in mind, the movie is not called “Serena and Venus.” It’s called “King Richard,” therefore it is about these girls’s father and it in a way tells the story through his eyes.
Now, I like a good father figure. I think we’ve seen a number of them in films from Uncle Ben in “Spider-Man” to Cooper in “Interstellar.” I think if anything, “King Richard” showcases how much its title character loves his children, but as I am watching this film, there are times where I just want to look the other way and I feel like he is doing something that nearly falls out of line. This is based on real people, so for all I know, this film could be referencing a ton of Richard’s mannerisms, but sometimes watching him speak or do something on screen felt nearly headache-inducing. Although I will say one thing about Will Smith, even though there were slight times that maybe I did not always like his character, I think given the material, Smith excels in terms of his performance. I felt every line of dialogue and I think Smith did an okay effort at bringing Richard Williams to life.
One of the things I did like about his character is that said character, not to mention this film in general, sort of represents the struggle that people of his kind, specifically black people trying to make it big in a white-dominated United States face. And the way this story is told sort of encapsulates that. There’s this one scene in a particular neighborhood that solidified that. In fact, if you watch the movie, and this exchange is in the trailer, all he wants for his daughters is to grow up and not be “on these streets.” I get where he’s coming from, and performance-wise, this was properly emoted.
At the same time, even if you took the aspect of underrepresented communities and the dangers of certain areas out of the equation, at the end of the day, one could look at this film as the story of a father who truly loves his daughters. He would do anything for them, but I also look at him and I feel like even though he is their parent, he almost comes off as controlling. I think a second viewing would be much needed at this point because for all I know, maybe I was in a certain mood that day and maybe he actually was justified from start to finish, but I feel like Smith put on an extreme performance for what seemed to be an equally extreme character. I could also kind of look at this film as what happens when you have nepotism come into play. Of course, you’re going to automatically think your kids are the best. My mother thinks I’m the best. But I KNOW I’m not. She’ll say it a thousand times over and over, doesn’t make it true. Those may just be words of encouragement as some sort of dream may be achieved in the process.
Now don’t get me wrong, just because Smith’s character does some occasional oddball things in this film, doesn’t mean I think it’s bad. Conceptually, it sounds fine. Part of me really enjoys tennis, and this film is about two of the most popular players in the sport’s recent history. I knew who they were, but I never knew about their childhood, I never knew about how they became so great at the sport itself. This movie was occasionally a fine history lesson.
When it comes to the two performers playing Venus and Serena, or Aunjanue Ellis and Demi Singleton, I think seeing these two together may have been the best part of the film. The duo felt like real sisters, and when their dad is in the mix, I think the best chops are executed out of all three of these guys. Seeing their relationship to me was one of the film’s major highlights.
Once again, I want to point out that this is based on true events, and as for the true events portion of this film towards the end, with this big tennis match, it’s some mighty intense stuff. If you enjoy tennis, or you don’t really know the stories of the Williams sisters, which I did not, I think you might get a kick out of the final act. Stay tuned.
In the end, “King Richard” is a film that I recommend to everyone who likes tennis, likes Will Smith, and wants an empowering story about two young girls. This is the kind of film I think some people will need for the most part. It’s about not giving up, not backing down, and giving it your all to be the very best. I think we all need that in some way. I’m going to give “King Richard” a 7/10.
“King Richard” has released in theaters this November. If it is playing near you, tickets are available.
Thanks for reading this review! I just want to let everyone know that the end of the year is coming up so this January I will be sharing my picks for the top 10 BEST and WORST movies of 2021. I cannot wait to share those picks. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “King Richard?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your personal favorite Will Smith movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!