Will Smith delivers a stellar performance as Richard Williams, the larger-than-life father who created tennis superstars—Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton).
Despite the lack of physical resemblance, Smith captures the essence and dogged determination of the manic “interview-hogging dad” who drafted a plan for his daughters before they were even born. Unwilling to consider any deviations to that plan, he works tirelessly to train and promote the girls. Brochures and videotapes in hand, he approaches professional coaches who gently (and not so gently) turn him down.
Afternoons and evenings, he trains the girls on a rundown court in all kinds of weather. He endures regular beatings from gang members who consider the court their turf.
Richard’s persistence finally pays off when coach Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn) reluctantly agrees to watch the girls practice. Impressed, Cohen selects Venus to receive free coaching. Venus quickly finds success in Juniors’ tournaments while Serena continues to practice with her mother.
Richard has long been known as the man behind the tennis magic. Still, Oracene Price (brilliantly played by Aunjanue Ellis) knows when to set aside the role of supportive spouse and intervene on her daughters’ behalf. Her fiery temper emerges at pivotal points in the storyline.
Actresses Sidney and Singleton learned to play tennis at a level convincing enough to be believable. They also exhibit the childlike excitement and confidence of the real-life Williams sisters.
Part biopic, part sports movie King Richard was named one of the best films of 2021 by the American Film Institute. In last Sunday’s Golden Globes, Will Smith received the Best Actor award (Drama). The film received three other nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Drama), Best Motion Picture (Drama), and Best Original Song.
A strong contender in this year’s award season, King Richard is a must-see film.