By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
(“Hidden Figures” and Fences”) and Demi Singleton
(TV’s “Godfather of Harlem”) are sensational as tennis icons Venus and Serena Williams
in the outstanding biopic, “King Richard.”
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green
(“Monsters and Men”), “King Richard” is an inspirational and courageous drama that centers on Venus and Serena’s father Richard (a dynamic Will Smith, “Uptown Saturday Night”) and mother, Oracene Brandy ( a superb Aunjanue Ellis, TV’s “Lovecraft Country”) and their quest to have their daughters become the most talented and dominate tennis players in the world.
Smith has never been better. He shines in the role as Richard Williams. It’s a riveting performance that equals his star turn in the critically acclaimed 2006 hit movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Hopefully, Smith and his co-stars will be considered during the upcoming awards season.
In “King Richard,” Smith is keeping a razor-sharp focus on the direction he wants his daughters Serena and Venus to take. They aren’t just average tennis players looking to win some local tournaments in their hometown of Compton, California. He’s preparing these young girls for a much bigger stage. What’s even better is they’re eager to listen, learn and put in the work.
As soon as they are finished with school each day--where they also excel--King Richard has the girls practicing--rain or shine--on the raggedy tennis courts at the park. He must contend with little, punk gang members interfering and disrespecting him and the girls. He even gets beat down by one of them in front of the girls, but karma later takes care of that thug.
While some in Richard’s neighborhood, believe he’s driving the girls too hard, he scoffs at that notion particularly when Child Protective Services arrives to check on the girls and ask him and Oracene how they are raising their five kids. He tells them he’s in the “champion-raising business.” Richard’s confidence is off the charts. Like the saying goes, it’s not bragging though if you can back it up. It’s his commitment to excellence that drives Serena and Venus.
So, when Richard finagles his way to have the girls meet renowned tennis coach Paul Cohen (a fantastic Tony Goldwyn, TV’s “Lovecraft Country”) it’s a real game-changer. Paul is impressed with Venus and is willing to work with her for free. Serena has to wait her turn for the spotlight.
In addition to Cohen, the girls up their game by training under Rick Macci (a terrific Jon Bernthal, TV’s “The Many Saints of Newark”) at his facility in Florida. Rick and Richard clash over everything since Richard is so demanding and insists on being in control. Richard doesn’t like the idea of the girls competing in small, junior tournaments. Rick believes it’s great exposure, but Richard winds up winning that match. His additional suggestions end up placing the girls front and center for great press coverage and eventually his ideas start to put money in everyone’s pockets.
“King Richard” is a remarkable rags to riches story. Of course, we know how Venus and Serena’s lives unfolded. They shocked the world and became the most celebrated tennis players on the planet.
The powerful and loving guidance their parents showed Serena and Venus on their journey to the top is what makes “King Richard” such a touching, heart-warming, and excellent movie.
All hail, “King Richard.”
is currently in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 93.1 FM and 1530 AM.
Watch This Trailer For "KING RICHARD"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.