Review: King Richard

KING RICHARD (2021)

It’s all about the performances in King Richard, a menagerie of acting supremacy from top to bottom, even as the film itself comes up a bit short.

Richard Williams (Will Smith) has a plan to his daughters to become two of the strongest tennis players in the world and though his means may be a bit unconventional and controversial, his dedication to his family shines bright. Smith delivers one of the strongest performances of his career as the polarizing father of Venus and Serena, fully embodying the traits of the man he is portraying. The true standout here, however, is Aunjanue Ellis as the family’s matriarch, delivering a strong, unwavering performance from beginning to end. Ellis continues to deliver the most powerful lines in every film that she is in with profound impact and authenticity; there truly is nobody like her. Add in Jon Bernthal’s superb supporting efforts here, sprinkled in the steady young actresses portraying the tennis phenoms, and you have the most well-rounded cast of the year.

The film as a whole is a solid outing, the story unfolding with intrigue and remarkable retelling. I can’t help but feeling, though, that the story is devoid of major conflict and ends up coming across as a Disneyfied version of true events. It all leads to a third act that arrives well into the lengthy runtime without much emotion having been delivered, save for one or two scenes, the strongest emotive moments coming at the very end. Those expecting a tale about Venus and Serena are likely to be disappointed as the focus is largely on Richard, Venus the conduit for the tennis action and Serena relegated to the background. King Richard left me wanting more, feeling unsatisfied, but grateful for the experience.

King Richard is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

Rating: 4/5

Photo from Los Angeles Times

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