In the movie “King Richard”, Will Smith plays one of the most complicated figures in professional tennis.
By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday SUN
The story of Richard Williams, father of the most successful fraternity duo in tennis history and arguably the history of the sport, is arguably one of the most compelling stories in American sport on its own.
Through pushing, determination and, some say, pride, Williams was determined to make his daughters Venus and Serena the tennis superstars they would ultimately become by giving them access to the best training and practice venues. , but only on its terms.
This fascinating story is the basis of the new film “King Richard”.
Will Smith of Philadelphia portrays the man whose focus on creating two well-rounded women who play tennis led to the creation of a pair of history makers.
Director Reinaldo Marcus Green takes you through the journey of the man who became one of the American Tennis Association’s first Hall of Fame inductees for guiding his daughters to tennis greatness.
Smith gives a solid and realistic performance as Williams, embodying his manners, gait and dialect. You could make a strong argument that this could have been one of Smith’s best performances in a movie in quite some time.
What was really compelling was Smith’s portrayal of Richard Williams to prepare his little girls to become the tennis icons they would eventually become. Smith also revealed the demanding, loving and at times stubborn family man that he is towards Venus and Serena.
One of the most compelling scenes in the movie was a scene based on a true story when Venus (played by Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (played by Demi Singleton) were at a country club trying to order burgers at the country club and place them on a tab. Richard Williams arrested them because he didn’t want his daughters to have a sense of entitlement.
The film also captured the controversy surrounding Richard Williams’ stubborn refusal to let his daughters play on the junior tennis circuit lest they end up being exhausted from the sport like Jennifer Capriati did at the start of her career. . career.
Unlike most sports films, there is no dramatic victory for young stars from this “rag to riches” story. The main highlight of the film was Venus Williams winning the 1994 straight-set loss to 14-time Grand Slam winner Arantxa Sanchez-Vacario, who was the no. 1 player in the world at the time.
It was one of the first sports movies I saw that didn’t have the oft-cliché player hitting a winning home run to save the protagonist’s day. In “King Richard”, Venus Williams’ loss to Sanchez-Vicario was significant as it was the first game that reflected the Williams sisters on the rise.
A more underrated performance in the film that is worth noting is that of Aunjanue Ellis who played Oracine “Brandi” Williams. Ellis did a good job being the willing wife of Richard Williams who made sure the Williams sisters were not pushed too hard by their father.
The movie has its flaws, as it was a bit too long and dragged on at times, but the Richard Williams story through Smith’s acting can help you get through those lull in the film.
Overall, it was a solid film about an African American dad who stayed with his kids and guided them to the dream of a lifetime.
“King Richard” premieres in theaters and on HBO MAX next Friday.