“A look at how tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams became who they are after the coaching from their father Richard Williams.”

Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Writers: Zach Baylin
Staring: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Jon Bernthal, Saniyya Sidney
Release Date: November 19, 2021
Where To Watch: HBO Max

King Richard is the story of Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena Williams. The movie follows Richard’s plan to have his daughters achieve the unbelievable, rise out of the courts in Compton, CA to become the best tennis players of all time. The man is convinced of the vision he has for his family, but his conviction ruffles feathers, pricks people’s egos and forces tough conversations with prospective coaches, his children, his wife and himself.

There was a buzz surrounding King Richard all rotated around Will Smith. The once summer blockbuster king is hunting for award consideration with this portrayal as Richard Williams. The two-time Oscar nominee is taking a bit from his two previous Oscar nominated parts in this latest gold-seeking effort. In 2002 Smith as nominated for Ali portraying the greatest in the world. in 2007 Smith was nominated for The Pursuit Of Happyness, which is about a father who is willing to do whatever it takes to get a better life for himself and his family. Now in 2021, Smith is playing a father willing to risk it all, and as a former athlete, he is coaching and managing the soon-to-be best in the world in his own unique way. There is a line that can be drawn through them all.

Smith is very good in King Richard, but it is not on the level of unprecedented or career-best. It is Smith’s best acting in quite a while, probably since he played the genie in Aladdin (2017). There are scenes were he is dialing it up to 11 and it is working. The argument that Richard and Oracene (Aunjanue Ellis) get into in the kitchen sticks out, as well as every scene he is watching his daughters play tennis. The lack of talking, the pacing, the turning back during stressful moments and judging of others parents is top-notch.

While Smith is good, he is not my vote for Best Actor at the 94th Academy Awards from the movies I have seen thus far. As of today, Smith is third on the Totem Pole, trailing Andrew Garfield and his performance in tick, tick…BOOM! (2021) and the best performance of this award season I’ve seen thus far, Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power Of The Dog (2021). Smith will undoubtably be nominated, not only because his performance is worthy enough, but also because his star power means more eyes on an award show that is desperate for it.

King Richard is a movie that thrives in the story and the performances in it. It is not shot for style points for visual spectacles, but more for objectivity and purpose. Director Reinaldo Marcus Green does not let anything get in the way of Zach Baylin screenplay of Smith’s performance. It is like a well tailored suit that emphasizes the person embodying it. It is very safe to say that Baylin’s screenplay will be nominated in Best Original Screenplay category; that is not too shabby for someone’s first ever major motion picture screenplay. Baylin is also writing Creed III (2022), so get excited for the third in that trilogy.

One of the best parts of King Richard’s screenplay is that it illuminates the often disgusting world of parents being too invested and involved in their child’s athletic endeavors. Richard Williams himself is bouncing that grey line of overstepping his bounds and being the motivational catalyst he is needed to be. It is an interesting dichotomy because when it comes to Venus and Serena getting coached, Richard is over protective and over zealous. However, when Venus is on the court, Richard is cheerful, quiet and reserved all while being stressed. At the junior events there are parents who are badgering their children or encouraging them to cheat. That is not something that Richard does.

As a competitive person, King Richard blends the idea of winning and having fun in a unique way. All the practice the Williams’ partake in is meant to make them the best. It is meant for them to win everything all the time. Richard himself says this and preaches that his daughter’s are going to be the best ever. But when they are on the court, it is all about fun. Richard is talking about having fun and relaxing. It branches from the point that if you put all your effort into the prep, then you just try your hardest and have fun when it finally comes to battle.

King Richard is a very good sports movie and one that deserves some accolades and praises. It is not in my personal top-five of 2021, but it is in the upper quarter movies from this calendar year. It is a lot like A Way Back (2020) which was a basketball movie starring Ben Affleck in a role made for award recognition. Both movies are better than they have any right to be and are lifted to their heights by the performances of their leading men.

King Richard is an uplifting story that rises above the fray of solid to very good with the charisma of Will Smith in the lead role. It is exciting to see one of Hollywood’s stars back in the awards conversation. It is exciting to see a very well-made sports movie worthy of some Academy Awards talk. King Richard serves up quality entertainment and sweeping performances that’ll make you want to pick up the rackets and play some tennis yourself.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

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