King Richard (2021) movie review
King Richard stars Will Smith as Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena Williams, as he struggles to bring his daughters into the professional tennis spotlight despite not being a wealthy family. The film opened this past weekend to a positive reception from critics and audiences, with most citing Will Smith’s performance as a highlight worthy of an Oscar nomination and possibly a win.
King Richard is exactly what I expected: A perfectly average sports biopic with some strong performances. And if that sound good to you, yeah go check it out! It’s pretty good! Could it be better? Absolutely. (I mean there’s always room for improvement of course…) But the film does struggle to hit the themes it sets up as hard as it could, which is a shame. But regardless, it’s a solid film that should bring a few Oscar nominations this award season, including a possible win for Original Song and Will Smith’s performance.
First and foremost, everyone in this film does a wonderful job! Will Smith is pretty fantastic as Richard Williams. Should he win an Oscar for it? Well to be honest, I hope he doesn’t. I feel like the film could have used him a bit- more. But if he does it’s overdue anyway. I don’t have any problems with his performance of course. He’s compelling, complex, often dislikable, but always understandably sympathetic in his goals. Plus the film gives him a hefty character arc to overcome. That said I feel like the last act deviated from what could be a more emotional finale. And I mean, you’ve got Will Smith! Go all out!
Speaking of Oscar nominations, Aunjanue Ellis should be right up there beside him! The character of Brandy Williams doesn’t have quite the same spotlight that Richard does (because it’s not about her…), but Ellis does a marvelous job really stealing the show when she’s featured. Heck there are a few scenes where she barely gets any dialogue but STILL steals the spotlight! Which is honestly a captivating portrayal for the relationship these two have in the film. And of course Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton are great as Venus and Serena, and Jon Bernthal was a surprising standout playing against type as Rick Macci, the girls’ second professional coach.
I have few technical problems with the filmmaking. Kris Bowers does a fantastic score for the film! The direction and cinematography and editing are all pretty good. I enjoyed the early 90s production design, though that’s not exactly a ‘steal the show’ era to throwback to… The pacing was also fantastic! For the first hour anyway… The film starts off with a compelling stride, but it does lose steam in the second act. But the third act picks up again, so it never feels too slow.
So, the best and worst thing about the film are the themes. King Richard has plenty to tackle, no doubt. And I believe the film does as well as it could for the runtime. Richard Williams was is interesting character, but an obviously flawed one. In the end I wanted the film to dive into that a bit more though! It feels like we spent most of the film building up his character flaws, and as soon as we needed to get to the finale- everything is fine. The film could easily benefit from some more intrapersonal conflict.
OR hit home some of the other themes a bit more. There is a focus on class and race that play into this story as clearly as the real life story. And for the most-part, the film does blend these themes incredibly well. But again, the last act feels like they just drop it because they have to wrap up in a fairly typical sports movie fashion. Honestly, King Richard could use an extra ten minutes. It’s already long, but I would watch a bit more of this film for more resolution.
Having said all that, I am not saying the film does a bad job at all! The character of Richard Williams is still a compelling one brought to life thanks to a genuinely moving performance from Will Smith. And the film rarely drops the ball aside from maybe being a little too short. Everyone else in the cast is great, the score is awesome, the pacing is (overall) pretty solid, and the story still sends a powerful message, even if it could be better. King Richard is not one I feel the need to watch again, but I am glad I watched it at least once. So yeah, whether you watch it on HBO Max or see it in theaters, King Richard is worth checking out! 7/10.
So King Richard? Did you see it? What did you think? And what do you think is Smith’s best performance? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! Thanks for reading!
-review by Ryan Prince