‘King Richard’ Review: Will Smith Triumphantly Plays Serena and Venus Williams’ Father

Will Smith is a top contender for his first Oscar for the role for which he changed his appearance, voice and atmosphere.

Whether you’re a tennis fan or not, King Richard is a successful film that tells one of the most unexpected success stories: how one man created two Mozarts under one roof.

Here’s how one character told Richard Williams, father of Serena and Venus Williams, that he wanted to create not one, but two masters. It couldn’t be done. Except that he did it.

He created not one, but two tennis champions. World No. 1 with seven Grand Slam titles under her belt and another arguably the greatest tennis player the world has ever seen with 23 Grand Slam victories.

Richard Williams didn’t force and raise two Mozarts, he forced and raised two Williams.

King Richard, starring Will Smith as the eponymous character, is the story of how his tenacity and determination won over the naysayers and even those in the girls’ corner.

But this is not some one-dimensional, father-knows-best defense of Williams’ domineering personality. This is a portrait of an imperfect person who made mistakes, who didn’t always do the right thing on his own, who wasn’t easy to marry, and who disappointed many people in his life.

Smith triumphs in this challenging role, drawing on the complexity of Williams’ ambitions for his daughters, based on the drive and belief that they are not only great athletes, but also great, well-rounded people.

And woven into it all is the fact that his own past was not an easy one, a black man born in the American South who wants a better life for his children. And one who has his own regrets that he has yet to face.

Smith changed his appearance, voice and energy for the role, but the compassion he brought to his character really enhances his performance. Especially when it would be too easy to portray a cartoonish tennis father.

The two young actors who play Venus and Serena, Sania Sidney and Demi Singleton respectively, are both beautiful and eager to succeed, but also love their father.

King Richard spans the years between the Williams’ childhood, endless training, rain, hail or sun, on the unkempt tennis court in their hometown of Compton, California, and working with head coaches until Venus’ professional debut at 14 and her match against Aranci. Sanchez Vicario in 1994.

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus GreenMonsters and people, Joe Bell) balances the film’s sports drama aspect well, saving court time so as not to downplay human history while revealing the behind-the-scenes theater of contracts, sponsors and coaching philosophies.

But perhaps one of the most interesting topics King Richard it’s how a black family conquered the very white sport of tennis, how Williams turned down an offer to enroll his daughters in basketball, or how much they excel physically at the country club.

He is always present but not dominant, and he really puts into context what an almost insurmountable problem he was, a problem King Richard captivates in a big way.

Rating: 3.5/5

King Richard is at the cinema now

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