May 25, 2024

KING RICHARD (2021) – Sugar coated biography that leaves one wanting for more details


Rating: ⭐⭐ 1/2

King Richard is the much touted biography of how Richard Williams manage to groom his two daughters into world famous tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams. Apparently Richard had this plan and vision all drawn up in his head on how he was going to create not one, but specifically, two world class tennis champions, even before they were born!! That is indeed a tale hard to believe but this is supposed to be based on reality. At least a version of reality that is endorsed and supported by the Williams family with both Serena and Venus Williams sitting in the executive producers team for this movie.

So what we here is a somewhat sugar coated version of the truth. Painting an admirable version of Richard Williams that focus on his foresightedness and virtues such as his perseverance in pushing his girls with their training, instilling humility in their minds, and resisting the negative influence of living in a crime infested city of Compton. There are hints of his infidelity with other women (and children) in his lives and his close brush with death and breaking the law in the famously rough neighbourhoods of Compton. His unorthodox thinking by not allowing his girls to participate in tournaments in their early development stage was challenged by everybody but eventually worked out.

As played by Will Smith, Richard comes across somewhat larger than life. He seem to be unable to do anything wrong. Under the hands of another actor or director, this character role may not have worked. Will Smith has screen presence and here, he manages to captivate the screen and is never boring. The movie seem to have deliberately kept Venus and Serena (played without any lasting impressions by Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton) in the background. As a result, they come across as pretty one dimensional characters giving us very little idea on what made them tick and so good. They just seem to have come equipped with their tennis skills naturally, and exist only to obey their father with always a smile and laughter. The story also never did explain why Richard chose Venus and Serena specifically for greatness when they had in fact five daughters. Venus and Serena’s siblings are portrayed even more vaguely and appears only as wallpaper in the process. No protests from them. Just joining in with the laughter and family support to their sisters.

The film’s focal point was also on Venus Williams’ rise to fame. How her sister Serena managed to gain her similar world status without the benefits of the support Venus had from the initial coaching and tournaments exposure is barely addressed.

While the film succeeds in telling us a fascinating true story of how one man has the ability to produce two world class tennis players, it falls short of providing us with a more complete picture. It is very much told from a one person’s perspective that resulted in raising many questions left unanswered. Perhaps we should have “Princess Venus and Princess Serena” as a follow-up!

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