TL;DR – A fascinating picture of a complicated man.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit sequence
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film.
King Richard Review –
There has been a resurgence in biopics in recent years, mainly in the music space. However, if there is one area where we could see more coverage, it would be in the sporting space. Today, we are looking at just such a case, but instead of a sporting star, today we are looking at one of their parents.
So to set the scene, back in the day, Richard Williams (Will Smith) and his wife Oracene Price (Aunjanue Ellis) are raising their five daughters in a two-bedroom house in Compton, California. Richard works night as a security guard, and Oracene works as a nurse. Still, in all their free moments, they are helping their daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) by coaching them in tennis. But for the girls to take the next step, they need to have more professional support, but Richard has a plan for that.
From a production standpoint, this film does a fantastic job of capturing that place and time. Having grown up in this time, it was more than a little disconcerting seeing all those touchstones in fashion and music in full display. The music was also a stand out for me, with all of the pulsating strings throughout the film setting every moment. Also, as someone who did play some tennis back in the day, they have done an excellent job capturing the sounds and feel of the court. The film also does a good job of making the actors look like they are the best tennis stars in over a generation. A combination of solid performances with on-point editing helps make this work.
The other strong point comes from the acting. There are no weak points in the cast, with everyone stepping up into their needed role. Aunjanue has the unenviable task of going toe to toe with Will Smith, who might be giving his best performance in decades. However, she goes toe-to-toe. There are moments when she wins the set. Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton have to capture the girls at very different points in their lives, and they do that to perfection. Then there are those supporting everything like Jon Bernthal, who makes everyone better.
Finally, we have to talk about Will Smith’s performance. Richard Williams is a highly complex person [well, at least from the outside], and Will’s performance captures every nuance. The complexity on show probably will have Will at the top of Oscar nomination, and that will be entirely justifiable. However, as you watch all of these stunning performances and an engaging story, you can’t help but have something in the back of your head. Which is, why wasn’t this biopic focused on the Williams Sisters. I 100% get why the film is focused the way it is in my head. However, in your heart, the positioning feels off.
In the end, do we recommend King Richard? Yes, yes, we do. Look, the film might have some issues, but it is equal parts uplifting, uncomfortable and highlights a person in all their complexity. If you liked King Richard, we would also recommend to you Battle of the Sexes.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of King Richard
Directed by – Reinaldo Marcus Green
Written by – Zach Baylin
Based on – The life of Richard Williams
Music by – Kris Bowers
Cinematography by – Robert Elswit
Edited by – Pamela Martin
Production/Distribution Companies – Westbrook Studios, Star Thrower Entertainment, Keepin’ It Reel, Universal Pictures & Warner Bros. Pictures
Starring – Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal, Dylan McDermott, Mikayla LaShae Bartholomew, Danielle Lawson, Layla Crawford, Andy Bean, Rich Sommer, Kevin Dunn, Craig Tate, Vaughn W. Hebron, Jessica Wacnik, Christopher Wallinger & Chase Del Rey
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: na; New Zealand: M; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13