‘King Richard’ movie review: A heart-warming triumph of human spirit

A still from ‘King Richard’

A still from ‘King Richard’

Before Richard Williams (Will Smith) there was Mahavir Singh Phogat (Aamir Khan). Remember Nitesh Tiwari’s Dangal (2016)? The film, like  King Richard, told of Phogat, a national-level wrestling champion from a small Haryana village, Balali, putting his daughters, Geeta and Babita, through a punishing training schedule to make them international wrestling champions. 

Phogat, like Williams, had to deal with ridicule and prejudice to inspire and guide his girls to the finish line. The finish line is naturally different for us. Our finish line was tears streaming down Phogat’s cheeks as he hears the national anthem and realises Geeta has won the gold at the Commonwealth Games. Williams’ dreams for his tennis prodigy daughters, Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) were slightly different, which is revealed in the epilogue. 

At the age of 15, Venus signed a contract for 12 million dollars apart from becoming the first African American woman to be ranked Number One while Serena has won a jaw-dropping 23 Grand Slam titles. 

King Richard
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Cast: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniyya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Tony Goldwyn, Jon Berntha
Storyline: The story of two sisters who are tennis prodigies and their father’s single-minded dedication to break through the lines of class, race and gender to make them legends 
Run time: 145 minutes 

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green,  King Richard tells the story of the often controversial and abrasive Williams, who had a plan (85 pages) for his daughters even before they were born. In Compton, Los Angeles, Williams and his wife, Oracene/Brandy (Aunjanue Ellis), coach Venus and Serena, while holding day jobs as security guard and nurse respectively. Williams tries hard to get the girls a coach. He finally convinces Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn), while he is coaching John McEnroe (Christopher Wallinger) and Pete Sampras (Chase Del Rey), to have a look at Venus and Serena.   

Cohen is impressed and but agrees to coach only Venus for free. That does not stop Williams who records everything and has Brandy train Serena based on the recordings. Williams’ constant comments and corrections during coaching do not particularly endear him to Cohen. Just as Venus is hitting the big league in junior tournaments, and sponsors come sniffing around, Williams decides to pull her out of tournaments fearing that she will be taken advantage of by smooth-talking white businessmen. 

Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal), who runs a tennis academy in Florida and trains Jennifer Capriati (Jessica Wacnik), offers Venus a place in his academy. Williams drives a hard bargain and the family move to Florida. The movie ends with Venus turning pro at 14 in October 1994 and taking a set off world champion, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario (Marcela Zacarías) at the Bank of the West Classic tournament. 

The film has the Williams sisters’ blessing and could be looked at a version of the truth — was Williams’ ambition for his girls money or to create a path for countless women of colour? Underdog sports stories are always thrilling and tennis is the best kind of eye candy.  King Richards is up for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, actor (it is difficult to see Smith for Williams), supporting actress (Aunjanue Ellis), original screenplay, editing and original song. 

While it is depressing that both the Phogat and the Williams sisters needed a man to get them out of Balali and Compton respectively to meet their destiny, it is heart-warming nevertheless to see the triumph of the human spirit.   

King Richard is currently running in theatres   

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2022 1:29:57 pm |