It was not a biopic about the Williams sisters Venus and Serena themselves, but rather their ambitious father Richard. But despite initial doubts about the narrative perspective KING RICHARD a film about the entire Williams family and, even without the biggest rough edges, an exciting look behind the scenes of the white-dominated tennis circus. We reveal more about this in our review of the Oscar candidate.
OT: King Richard (USA 2021)
Richard Williams (Will Smith) is the father of legendary tennis players Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena Williams (Demi Singleton). With his unshakable ambition, but above all with his boundless love, Richard paves the way for his daughters to reach the top of the world in tennis. He has to overcome enormous obstacles every day because Compton, California is not usually the place that produces tennis champions. So Richard bravely defends himself against the gangs that claim the local tennis court as their territory, trains tirelessly with his girls the intricacies of a game he has never played himself, and constantly fights against the age-old boundaries of race and class for a fair chance . Because he firmly believes that his daughters are destined for greatness.
It is better not to research the events depicted in the film in more detail before or after watching “King Richard”. Otherwise the biographical drama about the father of the Williams sisters Serena and Venus will collapse in its truthfulness. Because the word component “true” only partially applies here. And it is precisely the things that are left out that open up an image of Richard Williams that is not completely wrong in the film, but at least distorted. But that’s not surprising when you consider that the Williams sisters themselves are part of the film’s production staff, meaning they approved the story in advance. Recently it was completely different in the case of “House of Gucci”. As a result of the film’s release, the survivors of the Gucci dynasty expressed some criticism regarding the portrayal of false facts. Director Rolando Marcus Green (“Monsters and Men”) and debut screenwriter Zach Baylin (has already been confirmed as the writer for “Creed III”) are putting themselves entirely at the service of the conscious heroization of the eponymous main character for “King Richard”. At least partially. The audience is expected to have some rough edges – and these are what make the film as a whole so worth seeing.
Richard Williams (Will Smith) recognized the talent of his daughters Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) early on.
Anyone who suspects that “King Richard” simply turns the type of a classic over-ambitious “ice skating” (or here “tennis father”) into a loving family man who only wants the best for his daughters and thus gets exactly what is out of them anyway is already in them, he is very wrong. The film emphasizes the latter all too clearly, but there is a difference between supposed horror (we remember examples from real life such as the father of the Jackson Five or the mother of ice skating star Tonya Harding, if you believe the documented tradition) and warm-hearted Watchdog doesn’t exist in this form after all. The relationship between father and daughters, the two newcomers Sanyya Sidney (“Fences”) and Demi Singleton (“Godfather of Harlem”) embodied very solidly, was primarily characterized by protective instinct, love and motivation; However, Richard Williams actually took a much more calculated approach to furthering his daughters’ careers. For example, he and his family deliberately moved to the problem area of Compton in the hope of being able to draw even more attention to his daughters’ talent – because tennis was a sport at the time (and still is to a large extent today). the mostly white privileged group, from which Venus and Serena Williams stood out, and not just because of their talent. Richard’s difficult past is also largely left out; However, it is not at all relevant to the period in which “King Richard” takes place.
“The relationship between father and daughters was, first and foremost, one of protectiveness, love and motivation; However, in reality, Richard Williams took a much more calculated approach to furthering his daughters’ careers.”
The time period presented in the film is also a grateful one, because “King Richard” can also become a film about the Venus sisters themselves. And if you ignore the fact that the film title focuses on the father figure, the film could just as well be called “The Williams Family”, since a lot of attention is paid to Venus and Serena in particular, but also to the family construct as a whole. The narrative perspective, which is due to the fact that the careers of two women are described from the point of view of a man, gives “King Richard” spice – because above all it is a look behind the scenes of the tennis circus, especially its youth support , which makes the biopic worth seeing even for those less interested in the individual characters. The narrative approaches of the commentary on the two-class politics in tennis are particularly exciting to watch. The frustration of (white) fathers and mothers when their kids lose to the Williams sisters again is always a mixture of sporting frustration and racism.
The sisters themselves also know exactly what their strengths are.
In addition, “King Richard” largely follows the structures of common biopics and sports films alike. The film’s main benefit here is that some of the stages in Williams’s stellar career weren’t all that fairytale-like after all. But something like the forced break imposed by Richard Williams on his daughters so that they don’t burn themselves out on sport, as well as a tennis match in the film finale, take an unconventional direction in keeping with the film genre and are completely different to what you would expect. The fact that there is still a happy ending at the end of the story is clear from the beginning – no one has been able to ignore the reporting on the Williams sisters in recent years. It’s a shame that some narrative approaches get stuck in their origins. The relationship between Richard Williams and his wife Oracene (Aunjanue Ellis) is based almost exclusively on an excellently acted argument, while the focus on Serena Williams, who somewhat overshadowed Venus in the early stages of her professional career, is a little ignored lets see what her sister’s emotions looked like back then. Especially in this respect, “King Richard” is primarily a film about Richard Williams. Performed by Oscar frontrunner Will Smith (“Aladdin”).
“’King Richard’ largely follows the structures of common biopics and sports films alike. The film’s main benefit here is that some of the stages in Williams’ stellar career weren’t all that fairytale-like after all.”
Smith pulls out all the acting stops in his portrayal of the main character and, after so many strenuous attempts, should finally get his long-awaited Academy Award. He consistently maintains a balance between healthy and slightly excessive ambition, is convincing in his irrepressible desire for recognition – both as an African American himself and for his African American daughters in tennis – and yet strives for appropriate modesty. Such a character drawing, which now and then appears to be extremely idealized, is a grateful “Oscar role”, and the favorite position is therefore absolutely justified. To what extent the film itself has a chance of winning an award in the main category is difficult to judge. “King Richard” has all the prerequisites to emerge as a winner here as well, as its rags-to-riches story with an anti-racist message is beautifully staged. Nevertheless, he hits the right notes. An award would be calculated, but in no way annoying.
Conclusion: If you can live with the fact that “King Richard” has the rough edges in its portrayal of its main character, the biopic about the father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams is an equally exciting and emotionally stirring look at the entire Williams family and behind it the backdrop of the tennis circus that pushes the right buttons of an Oscar contender and should give Will Smith his first award.
“King Richard” can be seen in USA cinemas from February 24, 2022.