Tennis is a sport that I know very little about and honestly don’t have much interest in. However that didn’t hinder the enjoyment and investment that throughout King Richard. Overcoming its formulaic biopic/sports drama narrative traits and tropes, to present a genuinely interesting and inspiring story, that balances a light feel good atmosphere, with darker moments of raw family drama and touching upon the topic of race.
Written by Jack Ransom
King Richard tells the story of Richard Williams (Will Smith). Determined to write his two daughters, Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton), into history. Training on tennis courts in Compton, Richard shapes the girls' commitment, intuition and confidence.
Even with a runtime of 2 hours and 20 minutes, the film never feels like it overstays its welcome, due to its consistent pacing and a set (pun intended) of characters that it is impossible not to be engaged with. As previously mentioned, the film doesn’t rewrite the formula for this sub-genre. Instead simply executes it impressively enough that it never feels tired or played out. Balancing Richard’s own personal quest for his daughters glory, coupled with the myriad of tennis matches and training montages, each story thread compliments each other nicely and find a back and forth rhythm very much akin to a rally.
“Venus and Serena gonna shake up the world.”
Said tennis matches are brilliantly edited and creatively shot. It gives the sport a very cinematic feel and the host of different locations that range from the crime stricken streets of Compton, all the way to the glossy sun beached wealth of Florida, keep the film visually engaging and emphasises the scale of the Williams’ journey. There are frequently nice shots and effective usage of weather, lighting and the score/soundtrack, to make sure those poignant moments land.
There is no doubt that Will Smith’s performance will garner many an a awards show nomination, and rightfully so. He transforms himself here and it’s great to see him give a committed, very nuanced and researched performance. The persona of Richard is a fascinating one. Simultaneously coming off as a very good spirited and motivational presence for his daughters, but also a frustratingly overbearing, calculating and , at times, selfish person. Saniyya Sidney is an absolute joy as Venus, instantly capturing the kind, witty and incredibly confident instant-star personality. Demi Singleton is also good as her younger sister, though she does get sidelined for a substantial amount of the story. Both Jon Bernthal and Aunjanue Ellis also deliver in their main supporting roles.
King Richard is an easy to watch sports drama that will appeal to both fans of the sport and those who aren’t as familiar with the game or subject matter. With a great lead performance from Will Smith and an infectiously likeable and charismatic performance from Saniyya Sidney at the forefront, both help largely overshadow its familiar narrative traits and tropes.