‘King Richard’ review: Story of a father and mentor to the world's two greatest tennis champions

Still from King Richard (Image via Sportskeeda)
Still from King Richard (Image via Sportskeeda)
Sneha Haldar

King Richard is a half biographical and half sports movie on the life of Richard Williams, the father and mentor of legendary tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams. It is based on the true story of an undeterred father who played an instrumental role in raising two extraordinarily gifted athletes of all time.

His endeavors took Venus and Serena Williams from the streets of Compton, California, to the global stage as legendary icons of tennis.

The movie is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and stars Will Smith in the lead role as Richard Williams. King Richard premiered at the 48th Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2021. It was released on November 19, 2021, at the theaters and is also available to watch on the HBO Max streaming platform.

'King Richard': A synopsis

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King Richard follows the story of Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena Williams, and how he managed to bring up two of the most legendary tennis players in the world. He had drafted a 'plan' for his two daughters that would guide them to make history in the world of tennis.

The movie introduces us to Richard Williams, who drills his daughters at a local public tennis court in Crompton. While training his daughters and finding a coach for them, he also works night shifts to provide for the family.

Raising two black daughters in the field of tennis is not easy. Apart from coaching them, Williams must also fend off local gangs which harass his daughters and stand up against a nosy neighbor who called the police on their family because she believed he was overworking his daughters to the point of exhaustion.

With Venus and Serena slowly becoming pro players, their father's guidance is not enough. He must look for coaches to train them. Determined to prove his daughters' worth, Richard approaches various coaches persuading them to take on Serena and Venus. When a coach agrees to train Venus for free, he finally makes a breakthrough, but Serena gets left behind.

This marks a watershed moment in Venus's tennis career. She made better deals with coaches, and eventually, the whole family moved to Florida, where they managed to live a comfortable life, away from the ghetto of Crompton, where they started from.

The two sisters' tennis career flourishes under the strict guidance of their father, who must make the right decisions for his daughters' success.

Is 'King Richard' worth the watch?

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King Richard is a poignant and inspiring movie where the focus isn’t on the sports prodigies who would one day attain legendary status on the tennis circuit. Instead, the story takes a different route.

It approaches the childhood of the two famous players by focusing on the man whose determination, ambition, and sometimes overweening ego helped make his children champions.

Will Smith delivers an amazing performance in the title role of the film. He portrays a near-perfect portrait of Richard Williams in King Richard, which is worth the watch. One of the biggest celebrities in the world, Smith has come to be a sensational public figure.

His dedication to his role in the film was just as uncompromising and all-engulfing as the title character himself, whom he plays.

The wrongs in the movie

However, the film disappoints when it comes to portraying the stories of Serena Williams and the matriarch of the Williams family, Oracene “Brandy” Williams.

Despite Mrs. Williams's notable contribution to her children's career, her role in the film takes a backseat. She is merely portrayed as a pillar of support standing by her husband as he takes the lead role in pushing their daughters.

Even Serena's story does not receive much attention while her sister Venus is proven to be a prodigy and rises to stardom as she sits back and watches Venus' career take off. Serena is sidelined as the movie shines the spotlight on Venus.

King Richard is a reasonably straightforward biopic that follows a linear storyline. But it’s an entertaining one, giving viewers the chance to enjoy a heartwarming and uncomplicated storyline that delves into the anxieties and stress of parenting. It provides an insight into the lives of those who stood by and supported young prodigies on their way to fame.

Watch King Richard in theaters and HBO Max from today.

Edited by Rupak Kumar Jha
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