Reel Opinions


Sunday, November 21, 2021

King Richard


King Richard
proves one of my strongest held beliefs when it comes to movies - That a film doesn't have to be overflowing with originality in order to work, it just needs the right combination of strong performances, characters we can feel for, and a script that is worthy of telling the story.  Director Reinaldo Marcus Green, working with a script provided by Zach Braylin, does very little to shake up the sports underdog formula here, but does so with genuine emotion, humor, and a transformative performance by Will Smith, as the father of future tennis pros, Venus and Serena Williams.

Given that Smith is one of the more notable and recognized stars working in Hollywood, it's very hard to make the audience forget that we are watching him up on the screen.  And yet, Smith is able to completely disappear into the role of Richard Williams, who serves not only as the girls' father, but also their mentor in the sport and in life in general.  According to reports, Smith was initially to go under heavy make up to make himself look closer to the real life figure, but the director decided against it, and it was a wise decision.  Instead, Smith disappears into the performance physically.  He walks gingerly, as if he is constantly dealing with aching feet, and he always seems a little hunched over.  Richard explains at various points that he's taken plenty of beatings in his life, both physically and emotionally, and Smith is able to sell this just by how he carries himself.

The story begins in the early 90s in Compton, when the two future tennis stars are still not yet into their teens, and Richard is trying to run a tightly knit house with his devoted wife Oracene “Brandy” Williams (Aunjanue Ellis), and three other daughters.  In Richard's house, there is always a lesson to be learned from just about any experience.  After showing his girls a video tape of the Disney animated film Cinderella, he stresses to them that the movie shows how the heroine was humble throughout, and that they should strive to be the same.  For young Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton), life is all about schoolwork, and practicing the game that they both love.  Richard has constructed what he feels is an air-tight plan for their future, and he refuses to deviate from it.

Naturally, Richard is met with a large degree of skepticism outside of his home.  None of the major tennis coaches quite buy his claims that he has the "next two Michael Jordans of tennis" living under his roof.  Not only does he have to deal with the skeptical and largely white figures of the sport that he wants to break his daughters into, but he also has to deal with other challenges, such as the local street gangs that are always trying to lure his five daughters into their lifestyle, or a neighbor across the street who judges Richard from afar, and thinks that he is working his girls too hard, and is afraid for them to the point that she calls the police to investigate their home life.  Eventually, Richard is able to convince real life tennis coaches Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn), and eventually Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal), to take on his two daughters and lead them into the world of professional tennis.

One of the more interesting aspects of King Richard is how Richard's viewpoints and overall plan for Venus and Serena often clashes with those of the men who coach them at different points in the film.  His relationship with Macci, in particular, is one that seems to be built out of genuine friendship and at times madness.  Macci pays to bring the whole family to Orlando where they can live in a beautiful home near his coaching facility, and yet, Richard remains headstrong at times, and will not listen to what others say is best for his girls.  Only he knows what is best.  While the portrayal of Richard has been whitewashed somewhat (as is to be expected), the script still is able to show us that he can be stubborn and hard to deal with.  Richard feels he has to be in order to get what he wants for the girls, but is it really about them, or is it just what he wants?  There's a wonderfully acted scene where Oracene confronts Richard about just this, and that they are her girls as well as his.  

Even better is that even though we know how the story ends when we're walking in, it is still able to create a form of tension and genuine involvement in the audience.  We are instantly captivated by Smith's portrayal, but then the film digs deeper, and gives all the major characters a chance to stand out.  There are the big scenes I've already talked about that display Richard's complex relationship with his family and the girls' eventual coach, but there are also the small moments where Richard seems so close to giving up on everything and shows that even he is struggling.  There's a powerful moment where Richard almost makes a fatal mistake concerning a young gang member who is constantly harassing him and his daughters while they practice, and how he is snapped back to reality.  There is no dialogue in this scene, but Smith portrays every emotion beautifully.


King Richard
is a bit overlong at nearly two and a half hours, and there are a few heavy handed moments here and there, but for the most part, this is an excellent and uplifting film that captivates with its power, warmth and moments of humor throughout.  Despite the fact that it was made with the full cooperation of the Williams family, it never feels like it is glorifying the family.  It is an honest portrayal of the strength that Richard, Venus and Serena have that brought them to where they are today.

0 comments

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home

09/01/2005 - 10/01/2005
10/01/2005 - 11/01/2005
11/01/2005 - 12/01/2005
12/01/2005 - 01/01/2006
01/01/2006 - 02/01/2006
02/01/2006 - 03/01/2006
03/01/2006 - 04/01/2006
04/01/2006 - 05/01/2006
05/01/2006 - 06/01/2006
06/01/2006 - 07/01/2006
07/01/2006 - 08/01/2006
08/01/2006 - 09/01/2006
09/01/2006 - 10/01/2006
10/01/2006 - 11/01/2006
11/01/2006 - 12/01/2006
12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007
01/01/2007 - 02/01/2007
02/01/2007 - 03/01/2007
03/01/2007 - 04/01/2007
04/01/2007 - 05/01/2007
05/01/2007 - 06/01/2007
06/01/2007 - 07/01/2007
07/01/2007 - 08/01/2007
08/01/2007 - 09/01/2007
09/01/2007 - 10/01/2007
10/01/2007 - 11/01/2007
11/01/2007 - 12/01/2007
12/01/2007 - 01/01/2008
01/01/2008 - 02/01/2008
02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008
03/01/2008 - 04/01/2008
04/01/2008 - 05/01/2008
05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008
06/01/2008 - 07/01/2008
07/01/2008 - 08/01/2008
08/01/2008 - 09/01/2008
09/01/2008 - 10/01/2008
10/01/2008 - 11/01/2008
11/01/2008 - 12/01/2008
12/01/2008 - 01/01/2009
01/01/2009 - 02/01/2009
02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009
03/01/2009 - 04/01/2009
04/01/2009 - 05/01/2009
05/01/2009 - 06/01/2009
06/01/2009 - 07/01/2009
07/01/2009 - 08/01/2009
08/01/2009 - 09/01/2009
09/01/2009 - 10/01/2009
10/01/2009 - 11/01/2009
11/01/2009 - 12/01/2009
12/01/2009 - 01/01/2010
01/01/2010 - 02/01/2010
02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010
03/01/2010 - 04/01/2010
04/01/2010 - 05/01/2010
05/01/2010 - 06/01/2010
06/01/2010 - 07/01/2010
07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010
08/01/2010 - 09/01/2010
09/01/2010 - 10/01/2010
10/01/2010 - 11/01/2010
11/01/2010 - 12/01/2010
12/01/2010 - 01/01/2011
01/01/2011 - 02/01/2011
02/01/2011 - 03/01/2011
03/01/2011 - 04/01/2011
04/01/2011 - 05/01/2011
05/01/2011 - 06/01/2011
06/01/2011 - 07/01/2011
07/01/2011 - 08/01/2011
08/01/2011 - 09/01/2011
09/01/2011 - 10/01/2011
10/01/2011 - 11/01/2011
11/01/2011 - 12/01/2011
12/01/2011 - 01/01/2012
01/01/2012 - 02/01/2012
02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012
03/01/2012 - 04/01/2012
04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012
05/01/2012 - 06/01/2012
06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012
07/01/2012 - 08/01/2012
08/01/2012 - 09/01/2012
09/01/2012 - 10/01/2012
10/01/2012 - 11/01/2012
11/01/2012 - 12/01/2012
12/01/2012 - 01/01/2013
01/01/2013 - 02/01/2013
02/01/2013 - 03/01/2013
03/01/2013 - 04/01/2013
04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013
05/01/2013 - 06/01/2013
06/01/2013 - 07/01/2013
07/01/2013 - 08/01/2013
08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013
09/01/2013 - 10/01/2013
10/01/2013 - 11/01/2013
11/01/2013 - 12/01/2013
12/01/2013 - 01/01/2014
01/01/2014 - 02/01/2014
02/01/2014 - 03/01/2014
03/01/2014 - 04/01/2014
04/01/2014 - 05/01/2014
05/01/2014 - 06/01/2014
06/01/2014 - 07/01/2014
07/01/2014 - 08/01/2014
08/01/2014 - 09/01/2014
09/01/2014 - 10/01/2014
10/01/2014 - 11/01/2014
11/01/2014 - 12/01/2014
12/01/2014 - 01/01/2015
01/01/2015 - 02/01/2015
02/01/2015 - 03/01/2015
03/01/2015 - 04/01/2015
04/01/2015 - 05/01/2015
05/01/2015 - 06/01/2015
06/01/2015 - 07/01/2015
07/01/2015 - 08/01/2015
08/01/2015 - 09/01/2015
09/01/2015 - 10/01/2015
10/01/2015 - 11/01/2015
11/01/2015 - 12/01/2015
12/01/2015 - 01/01/2016
01/01/2016 - 02/01/2016
02/01/2016 - 03/01/2016
03/01/2016 - 04/01/2016
04/01/2016 - 05/01/2016
05/01/2016 - 06/01/2016
06/01/2016 - 07/01/2016
07/01/2016 - 08/01/2016
08/01/2016 - 09/01/2016
09/01/2016 - 10/01/2016
10/01/2016 - 11/01/2016
11/01/2016 - 12/01/2016
12/01/2016 - 01/01/2017
01/01/2017 - 02/01/2017
02/01/2017 - 03/01/2017
03/01/2017 - 04/01/2017
04/01/2017 - 05/01/2017
05/01/2017 - 06/01/2017
06/01/2017 - 07/01/2017
07/01/2017 - 08/01/2017
08/01/2017 - 09/01/2017
09/01/2017 - 10/01/2017
10/01/2017 - 11/01/2017
11/01/2017 - 12/01/2017
12/01/2017 - 01/01/2018
01/01/2018 - 02/01/2018
02/01/2018 - 03/01/2018
03/01/2018 - 04/01/2018
04/01/2018 - 05/01/2018
05/01/2018 - 06/01/2018
06/01/2018 - 07/01/2018
07/01/2018 - 08/01/2018
08/01/2018 - 09/01/2018
09/01/2018 - 10/01/2018
10/01/2018 - 11/01/2018
11/01/2018 - 12/01/2018
12/01/2018 - 01/01/2019
01/01/2019 - 02/01/2019
02/01/2019 - 03/01/2019
03/01/2019 - 04/01/2019
04/01/2019 - 05/01/2019
05/01/2019 - 06/01/2019
06/01/2019 - 07/01/2019
07/01/2019 - 08/01/2019
08/01/2019 - 09/01/2019
09/01/2019 - 10/01/2019
10/01/2019 - 11/01/2019
11/01/2019 - 12/01/2019
12/01/2019 - 01/01/2020
01/01/2020 - 02/01/2020
02/01/2020 - 03/01/2020
03/01/2020 - 04/01/2020
04/01/2020 - 05/01/2020
05/01/2020 - 06/01/2020
06/01/2020 - 07/01/2020
07/01/2020 - 08/01/2020
08/01/2020 - 09/01/2020
09/01/2020 - 10/01/2020
10/01/2020 - 11/01/2020
11/01/2020 - 12/01/2020
12/01/2020 - 01/01/2021
02/01/2021 - 03/01/2021
03/01/2021 - 04/01/2021
04/01/2021 - 05/01/2021
05/01/2021 - 06/01/2021
06/01/2021 - 07/01/2021
07/01/2021 - 08/01/2021
08/01/2021 - 09/01/2021
09/01/2021 - 10/01/2021
10/01/2021 - 11/01/2021
11/01/2021 - 12/01/2021

Powered by Blogger