King Richard (2021) is a familiar story of a young sportsperson succeeding against odds. The film, a biography of tennis star Venus Williams stands out for being told from the point of view of her father Richard Williams – that is the reason for the title. The film starring Will Smith is directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and benefits from having Venus and Serena Williams as the executive producers. For an Indian audience, the film is sure to remind the superhit Dangal (2016) which was about a similar loving father raising his two daughters to be successful wrestlers. King Richard gets my rating of Ripe.
The character of Richard Williams is nuanced, he is a hard-working family man who loves his daughters unconditionally, he stands by them, at the same time he can be scheming, a strict disciplinarian who can be unreasonably adamant on his decisions and can be challenged only by his wife Oracene aka Brandy. Surprisingly, the man wants his girls to be good at everything, on studies, on their attitude, with their soft skills and of course on tennis – the word focus is not on his dictionary. He has a detailed plan on the future and career of his daughters, written even before they were born – and the main item in the plan is that they will be the best tennis players in the world. He doesn’t have the money to spend on getting them to the best grounds or employing talented coaches, so in the initial years, he coaches them himself and in later years he is relentless in his pursuit to get the top tennis experts in the country to coach them for free! He plays Disney’s Cinderalla movie to teach his kids moral lessons was interesting. He insists the girls cultivate humility and lose gracefully after every match. Having suffered the humiliation of being an African American and hailing from simple means, he is particular his girls don’t undergo the trauma, at the same time in every opportunity coming his way he exploits the white guilt felt of the person on the other side.
With a slightly drooped back and a deep thought look, Will Smith was outstanding as Richard Williams. Supporting him competently were Aunjanue Ellis who comes as Oracene and as young Venus Williams,
Saniyya Sidney was befitting the role. A couple of tennis matches featured (recreated) in the film were done nicely. The final game, unfortunately, plays out suddenly and feels dull, not suiting an otherwise good-paced film. Though the film is said to be about the sisters, the character of Serena Williams gets under-explored first and completely ignored in the second half.