One of the Best Sports Films Ever
Sports biopics can be a straightforward story or they can be an inspiring story of people overcoming tremendous odds to be successful in whatever sport they are competing in. In the case of King Richard, it’s tennis. This film is probably one of the best biopics about athletes overcoming great odds.
The film is named after Richard Williams (Will Smith), the father of five daughters, two of which are Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena Williams (Demi Singleton) — who would become some of the greatest female athletes of all time. They just happen to play tennis, a traditionally white sport. They come from a working-class household where both parents work to give the children the best upbringing they can in Compton, California.
Smith’s Richard Williams is very hard on his girls. He makes sure they do their homework and get good grades in school all before he takes Venus and Serena out to the local courts for grueling workouts, sometimes in the rain. All the while he tries to instill in them a great work ethic and drive to succeed. He even goes around trying to find a coach for them that will work with them for free under the auspices of his plan that he’s laid out for the girls since they were little. It’s his way or the highway for any coaches working with the girls. That includes Rick Macci (Jon Benthall) and their mother Brandi Williams (Aunjanue Ellis) as well.
King Richard has a lot of heart and some heartache as well in it. It also has some humor in the most unlikely scenes, such as a meeting of some men who are trying to get Richard to sign his daughters up to a contract to help them move their careers forward. He flatulates and walks out of the meeting. Smith breaks up a lot of scenes with his quick wit. Smith’s Richard wouldn’t seem this clever at times, but he is smarter than he seems. All these men take him for granted and think they can walk all over him, but they can’t. He knows what he’s doing.
Sports movies have to get the viewer to believe the sports in the said movie are being played. That’s easier said than done in most sports movies. The girls were playing tennis and were very believable in doing so. This looked like high-class tennis from professionals. That goes out to the choreographer and director Reinaldo Marcus Green. It goes to figure this film wouldn’t have gotten made had these scenes not looked authentic. They are the beating heart of the film.
With any biopic, the performances have to be believable as well. I can honestly say Will Smith gives the performance of his entire acting career. He mixes his comedic chops with genuine dramatic chops to give a tour de force performance. Alongside him is Aunjanue Ellis as their mother who is fighting alongside Richard, but sometimes on a different wavelength than him. Jon Bernthal is also so different from his usual, yet incredible as Macci, a coach that loves what these girls can do and what their potential is. These performances anchor a great overall film.
With all period piece films, the filmmakers have to get the setting and production value correct, and this film gets that right. It’s so reminiscent of the ’80s and ’90s, right down to the hairstyles and clothes. The VW bus was so on the nose it was funny. Having known coaches back during that time, I can honestly say the short shorts for everyone including Richard Williams was so spot on.
In conclusion, King Richard is nothing short of great! The performances by Smith, Ellis, and Bernthal are awards nomination-worthy. As far as this true sports story goes, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. The filmmakers got everything right down to the old VW bus Richard Williams drives himself and his kids around in. This film is easily one of the best ten films of the year and should be nominated for Best Picture at next year’s Academy Awards along with Smith, Ellis, and Bernthal.
Dan Skip Allen
Founder/EIC disappointment media