King Richard (2021). Film review of the biographical sport drama starring Will Smith

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Sports

image four star rating very good lots to enjoy

Film review of King Richard, the sport film based on the energies and efforts of Richard Williams, father and coach to the legendary players Venus and Serena. Starring Will Smith and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green.

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Synopsis

Biographical sport film that charts the early years careers of tennis champs Venus and Serena Williams, in particular the many blocks and challenges they had to overcome, due in part to systemic and ingrained racism and misogny within the field. They are backed all the way by Richard (Will Smith), their workhorse, powerhouse of a father who is imbued with a clear image of his girls becoming high-ranking stars.

Review, by @Reelreviewer

I was once told a maxim I have always borne in mind when reviewing biographical films…be wary of those produced when the subject is still alive, kicking and with the possibility of lawsuits. Some of the events here might be familiar if you watch TV news enough and King Richard looks to have stayed the right side of fact versus let’s-tell-a-good-story-cinematically.

King Richard follows the trend of modern, big-name movies to run clear past the ‘standard’ two-hour running. I know the writer and producers are distilling several years of action into a single-movie format so the potential for runover was always there, and that the Williams family faced an uphill struggle as they tried to get their daughters a shot at sporting success. The issues come at them from all corners: racism from White people, snobbery and unwillingness to even consider change from the tennis profession and classism from the Black community (who hassle the girls as they practice for their way out of the ghetto).

The level of organisation and logistic to get the sisters noticed must have been incredible. Just having to sort out what court they could use for practice as they had no permanent base must have been a pain in itself.

Here we have a lengthy, quality film as the dialogue is so good. It mixes sophisticated, vernacular put-downs, sarcasm that creates new shades of shade, and compliments that are backhanded like…a tennis serve! It’s the best stuff Will Smith has had to say in years if not decades.

He gives an impactful performance that will stay with you after the movie has finished, likewise Aunjanue Ellis as the girl’s mother Oracene or ‘Brandy’. The focus of the movie is the father, but there is a short sequence when Brandy reminds him about the work she has been doing, less remembered but equally valuable. Her voice is a minor one in this telling of the story, but when she speaks about her neglected successes she roars.

NB: The funky/soul soundtrack features some great music including, surprisingly, Banarama’s idyllic and relaxing Cool Summer.

Cast & credits

Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green. 2hr 24min (144 min). Warner Bros. (presents)/Star Thrower Entertainment/Westbrook Studios/Keepin’ It Reel. (12).

Producers: Will Smith, Tim White, Trevor White.
Writer: Zach Baylin.
Camera: Robert Elswit.
Music: Kris Bowers.
Sets: William Arnold, Wynn Thomas.

Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew, Daniele Lawson, Layla Crawford, Erika Ringor, Noah Bean, Craig Tate, Josiah Cross.

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