Welcome to REEL Film Reviewed the show that delivers short spoiler free reviews of films, TV shows, and limited series followed by a deep dive discussion.
Brought to you by your host Kris Chaney, here is REEL Film Reviewed.
Welcome back, everyone.
This episode REEL Film Reviewed King Richard based on Richard Williams, father and coach of tennis phenom sisters Venus and Serena.
Let’s get into the spoiler free review.
A glimpse of the come up story of Venus and Serena Williams as they were coached by their father, Richard, and the film follows the story up until Venus’ professional debut.
This was an eloquently told story, but it wasn’t perfect. It focused on Richard’s struggle more than anything from getting his girls noticed and professionally coached to having the world see him differently than he subconsciously sees himself.
Smith’s portrayal of Richard shows us a man who’s struggling with not just his personal disappointments but also love and genuine affection for his children and his family. Zach Baylin’s script respects this nuance.
This film is about sharp characterizations and on screen performances to carry out those passionate scenes. This film is far from perfect as I mentioned, but the meat lies within the grittiness of the story.
This film mainly focuses on Venus and Richard starting her career into the pros as Serena joins Venus on tour two years after the last match that is seen on the film and we see Serena in the background for much of the film– oh yeah and they have three other daughters who are also not professional tennis players. Not much is discussed about them outside of the oldest, one remaining in college in California. When the family makes the move to Florida to pursue Venus’ tennis career.
Will Smith channels his usual possible award winning performances. However, I feel that he may have overdone it just a little bit. The man is seen in tight shorts and athletic gear for the majority of the film, but the characteristics and passions that make Richard were a bit carried away by Will in some of the scenes. In others, he does deliver a stirring performance worthy of recognition.
The film also adequately displays a stronger female lead on Aunjanue Ellis to play the strong wife and mother that is Oracene, aka ‘Brandy’ Williams. Rick Macci is played by Jon Bernthal, and I have to admit he was decent, but I enjoyed Tony Goldwyn’s performance a lot as Paul Cohen, Venus’ first professional coach before Rick Macci.
Venus was played by Saniyya Sidney, and Serena was played by Demi Singleton, but they both had such minor appearances in the film except to play off of Will. It’s kind of hard to grade their performances. The scenes with Venus, she played whatever Richard told her to, and there were very little scenes where we got to see much of a counter from their characters.
Serena, as mentioned, was in the background for most of the film and that is largely due to the time frame in which the film is set. Being that Serena is younger and this film focused on Richard mainly and how he assisted in getting them into the sport that they’ve dominated for over 20 years.
There was a very touching and important scene between Richard and Serena, and I will talk about that a little bit more after the spoiler free review.
The REEL View rating 7 out of 10 stars.
While this film was a wonderful look into the early life for two of tennis’ greatest players and the perilous yet genius path Richard took to get them to their professional start, it was a bit repetitive. Richard’s story is repeated a few times with different individuals before finally turning into Venus’ playing and taking a look into that at the very end of the film.
The film is called King Richard, so it may be selfish to say that I wish there was more about the girl’s journey, especially since they were both producers of the film. It does tell the most important pieces of Richard, though it does not give us a background on him despite what he says, it is not a biopic about Richard. It is a story that’s focusing on a very specific point of time when Richard is first scouting for a coach for Venus and Serena. So a lot has already happened in his life up until this point.
King Richard was released in 2021. It was directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, starring Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton and Tony Goldwyn.
It is rated PG 13 and has a run time of 2 hours and 18 minutes.
It can be viewed in theaters as well as on HBO Max.
All right, here is the spoiler alert warning.
Those new to REEL Film Reviewed after this point, I will discuss this review further, potentially and likely reviewing spoilers.
Thank you for listening to the spoiler free review.
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Welcome back, everyone.
Let’s dive into the REEL View Hollywood Comparison.
The Real View rating was 7 out of 10 stars. Critics said 71, and the popular opinion was 7.4 out of ten stars.
Not bad on par, I think we all kind of felt the same about this film.
Basic plotline recap. It was simple, as mentioned, it focuses on a specific point in time when Richard is trying to get a tennis coach to coach his daughters for free. He advertises them as a pair and also claims that they’re the next Michael Jordans of tennis, and it follows the relationships between Richard and coaches Rick Macci and Paul Cohen. I know I’m probably saying one of their names wrong, but that’s okay. [Laughs] Basically, as they attempted to coach Venus alongside Richard was kind of perilous, he was such a dominant and prominent presence in their practice and training that it ended up causing a little bit of conflict, definitely with Paul Cohen.
Richard was not what you might call a tennis dad in the fact that he drove family education and fun before early success. Despite knowing that his girls were destined for it, he frequently says throughout the film that he planned it that way.
One of my favorite scenes was the scene towards the end after Venus wins her first professional match and it was a scene between Serena and Richard. Richard acknowledges the inner struggle that Serena may have had with loving her sister and wanting her to do well but also wanting to do well herself. Richard tells her that Venus will be number one in the world and Serena agrees, and then Richard tells her, but you’re going to be the greatest of all time. And I know that because I planned for it.
And that scene gave me chills even now thinking about it, because when I was younger, I did like Venus, and I respected her for her breakthrough for young black girls in the sport and black girls everywhere, really. But it was Serena that I enjoyed watching play, when I was growing up, and even now, Serena has always been my favorite player for as long as I have been able to form an opinion.
My dad used to watch players like Andre Agassi and Men’s, and Capriati, loved Capriati. So he was watching Venus and eventually Serena when they came on the scene and I remember him telling me about them and how young they were and all these amazing things that they were doing. So of course, everybody knows now that Serena has won more Grand Slams than Venus.
Both have had illustrious careers, but at the end of the film, we do see that the stats come up that confirm number one for Venus, number one in the world and the greatest player of all time is considered Serena by many, many people, and I need her to win just one more, post baby. Just so I can win the bragging rights on that one.
But anyway, so moving on and breaking down the REEL view, this film was about performances if you couldn’t tell that already by listening to the review. It really was more about one man’s performance. Aunjanue was pretty decent as their mother but when you take everybody’s performances aside, really only one truly stood out, which was the main one, Richard. And that was played by Will Smith.
And I’ve come to realize that this may be the quest that Will is on. The quest for an Oscar, and while I feel that Will has certainly earned and achieved Academy nod recognition, I can’t say that this film was enough to bring home the little gold trophy. I’ve seen Will old broke, damn near homeless and looking clean cut in other movies and playing cops and all kinds of other things.
With that said, in this performance, it was solid but when you break the scenes down there wasn’t much of a challenge on screen. That being said, Smith did some of his best acting in the earlier scenes of the film which clearly showed that chip on Richard’s shoulder, but also his frustration and resentment for pretty much the majority of the situations that he was in and genuine love for his family and wanting to do the right thing by them.
As mentioned, it is a bit repetitive by showing Richard’s battle again and again with the white tennis establishment. There are also battles of the criminal elements in the Compton community that we see a little bit as well and in those earlier scenes that’s when it really shines as far as his performance goes.
This film had a difficult time deciding which way it was going to portray Richard. The wholesome family man who also may be a genius and the darker side of Richard that was mentioned in the film but not explored. I know Venus and Serena were producers on this, so it could have been to avoid shedding light on darker family business but there was more that could have been explored there.
This King Richard seems to only shed light on a piece of his life, which involved introducing the world to his tennis marvel daughters.
Overall, this was a solid film which targeted a specific time in a specific history and highlighted some key moments in this country’s history. Venus and Serena broke molds, paved new roads and set footprints in stone in history for black women to achieve greatness in a sport that was traditionally played by white athletes. And it’s considered a proper and a respectable game and for blacks to enter into it, dominate it and gain acceptance and respect in the sport, is historically groundbreaking.
Nowadays we see all kinds of tennis players, but it started with Venus and Serena, and it started with Richard knowing what they could do and planning their lives around achieving that success. So he taught them literally from the physical side to the mental side, even when they were conducting interviews, they always had a lot of confidence. And you can see in the film how he kind of controlled that as well.
All right, so let’s get into some “did you know” facts?
There aren’t very many, as far as fact checking. There was one scene that I absolutely had to fact check because I was just flabbergasted on if that was actually allowed to happen back then, but I’ll get into that.
So this screenplay, King Richard, was featured in 2018 on the Blacklist, which is an annual list of well received, unproduced screenplays.
And second, this is the scene I was talking about, the bathroom break that was taken by Venus’ opponent Vicario in the film did not actually happen in the match. The game by game account of the match makes no mention of it. I guess it’s possible that it may happen, but there was no mention of it in the game by game recap.
There was a little bit of criticism over Will Smith playing Richard, it wasn’t necessarily a little known fact. I think that’s kind of a big thing that happens whenever there’s something as far as race that comes out. But, Richard is a little bit darker than Will and skin tone. I didn’t really consider Will to be light skinned.
The report that I read the criticism received was that Richard was darker skinned than Will, who was light skinned and to me, Will isn’t dark but I’m a light skinned black person and I wouldn’t consider Will Smith to be a light skinned, black person.
So I’m a bit curious as to where this criticism was received and who said it, but that is all I have for you today, everyone.
Please let me know what you thought of the film by checking out the show notes for places where you can contact me or find me on social media.
Thanks for listening, everyone.
I’ll catch you next time.
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