King Richard (2021)

The story of how Richard Williams (Will Smith) served as a coach to his daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton), who will soon become two of the most legendary tennis players in history.

An overlong, saccharine, repetitive story that avoids the hinted-at darkness beneath the surface.

The achievement of the Williams sisters in tennis is amazing. But KING RICHARD, as the title suggests, focuses on their father who was driven to construct a life for his children in which they all succeeded at their best — not just, in this case, at tennis, but as well-rounded adults who lived the best life possible — as he saw it.

KING RICHARD, while acted well by the cast, is a repetitive and plodding telling of Richard’s driven approach to making sure his family members achieved what he saw as their ultimate dreams. The film focuses primarily on Richard and, in that sense, reflects his egoism and arrogance at believing he knows what is best for everyone, including his wife who must be very assertive at protecting her and her children’s welfare at times. Richard’s motivations are genuine but, in approaching the development of his children’s lives which he has planned out for all of them, he occasionally steps over the line with his disciplinarian and, often, manipulative approach to those around him.

My criticism of the movie is not so much about its perspective on the story. It just doesn’t reach the emotional intensity it needed to, to make this an engrossing story. It’s like watching the same scene over and over for the 2½ hours. It could have been so much more compelling. On a positive note, Will Smith’s performance is one of his best. And Sidney and Singleton, who play the two sisters, are excellent. They had to learn to play tennis to the level you see in the film. A remarkable achievement. Aunjanue Ellis is also excellent as Oracene, the mother.

An interesting story that’s told in an uncompelling way and that finds it difficult to deal with the darker side of “King” Richard.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

(In cinemas in Australia – check your movie guide for your local show times.)


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