See It Or Skip It: See It
Toasty Warm Feel Good Film
King Richard is a toasty warm feel-good film about love, perseverance, and chasing dreams. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a film that left me feeling snug and tucked in safely from the world’s harshness the way King Richard does. The film which is a mesmerizing look at how Venus and Serena Williams became the tennis stars they are today takes shelter in its tender surroundings and makes more than enough room for any viewer who might come knocking on the screen's door.
Venus and Serena (Saniyya Sidney & Demi Singleton) are destined to become the world’s top professionals, a fire-burning talent and love for the sport seen through the eyes of their father Richard (Will Smith). Richard drives them to succeed and achieve greatness because he knows not just how amazing they are but how much they love it. Without that passion for what you're doing, it just doesn’t work and Richard sees that it will work. It’s not for him at all, it’s for the girls. Early on, we see Venus and Serena practicing out in the rain and there was just something so freeing and invincible about that. To have such fuel of determination and then feel such triumph when you're soaking wet. The rain seems to symbolize the tears of hard work and victory that will eventually pay off.
Richard spends a great deal of time trying to find coaches for the girls who will have their best interests the way he does. Obviously, there are a couple of bumps in the road but eventually, he finds Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal) to train the girls just as tournament opportunities start to crawl. The pressure of success, as well as the newness of it all, is a lot for the girls to take in and the scenes of tension between Richard and Rick are very interesting because he finally has someone truly on his team so what does it look like when they disagree?
Disagreements with his wife Brandy (Aunjanue Ellis) are the most uncomfortable because their marriage is so over by the time the film begins, they’re just staying together out of convenience. Brandy wants the girls to succeed too and she is very supportive up to a point but there’s a seed of dedication in Richard that Brandy just doesn’t seem to have. Ellis portrays Brandy as a proud mother but it’s Brandy’s fears that consume her throughout the film. The presence she holds on screen is that of someone looking around her to make sure everyone is still close by. She has a very particular nervousness to her that Ellis just knocks out of the park in her portrayal. She wants to be the optimist that Richard is but she has three other daughters from another man and life just seems to have gone a different way for her leaving her in a room she’s not mentally able to walk out of at the moment. Ellis really holds a different kind of role in this story but hers is equally as important as Richard’s and she’s equally as deserving of her Oscar nomination.
It is Will Smith of course who is literally the crown on the film’s head. He has such a gentleness to him but crosses him the wrong way and he will come for you. He has this curious but intense focus in his eyes that leaves you unable to take your eyes off him. My absolute favorite scene in King Richard is close to midway through. Venus is entered into the junior tournaments where she faces off against other girls her age and she beats all of them. Afterward, the girls are all celebrating and bragging about the win. I swear to god, when they start bragging, Richard's ears look as though they point up like a fox. Actions speak louder than words so what does he do? He sends them into a shop together and then drives off with Brandy insisting that if they’re going to “act like that” they can walk the three miles home. Of course, Brandy insists that he has to turn around and go get them and she won’t take no for an answer. Richard turns around and picks the surprised girls up. It’s an important yet hilarious scene and it doesn’t end when Richard picks them up. He drives the girls home and then (I kid you not, it’s so adorable and so funny) makes them watch a VHS tape of Cinderella to teach them a lesson about having humility.
When he asks what the girls learned from the film, neither of them comes up with the answer he’s waiting for so he tells them. It’s truly a teachable moment but the way Smith executes it is just so adorable and therefore leaves you full of giggles. When I described King Richard as a toasty feel-good film, I meant it. There are moments that can be upsetting but nothing so severe that it ruins the fantasy. The fantasy is that in America if you work hard enough and are kind enough, you can achieve anything. Fantasies are magical while they last and how things worked out in King Richard may be very rare but what King Richard stands for is the bigger picture. I strongly recommend this beautiful film to everyone. You’ll all get something out of it even if you don’t know what it is. Maybe you won’t win the game but you’ll still want to play.
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