Last night I got around to watching the new Richard Williams biopic titled 'King Richard' which focuses on the controversial father of the Williams sisters as he raises them to superstardom. I tried to temper my expectations going in after a phenomenal trailer setting it up.
Fact of the matter is I'm a sucker for any heartfelt sports movie, but this really was a phenomenal film. Does that come with some bias because I'm a tennis nut? Definitely, but from what I see on the internet everyone is loving it and clamoring for Will Smith to finally take home his elusive best actor award when the next Oscars come around. It may not being doing great at the box office, maybe because it was an HBO Max release as well, but the reception has been nothing except applause so far.
Richard Williams was a father who was set on raising Venus and Serena Williams to stardom and nothing less. He wrote out a 78 page plan that he would hand out to various trainers and agents that devised how this was all going to work. Crazy thing is that it all played out how he imagined. No one has been more right about their kids than that guy. He took being an obsessive, supportive athlete dad to a level we may never see again, but everything he had hoped Venus and Serena to become actually happened.
Will Smith is the heart and soul of this movie and hits the role out of the park. Halfway through you almost forget it's Will Smith which I feel is always a solid sign if someone is doing a great job acting. I was reading that Serena and Venus were worried how he was going to be depicted in the movie because to the public he was viewed as this insane father who would not stop until they were the best. That is true, but he was also this caring guy who wanted his kids to be happy and do what they wanted to do. The scene when the cops show up to the house was incredible to me. Super intense, super emotional, but very important to the soul of the movie. The film shows both sides of him rather than the one the public knew to understand which was a nice surprise.
The Williams family had a very hands on approach to the movie being made and as a result a large majority of the scenes in the movie are 100% accurate. Yes the cops were called on him after a neighbor thought he was abusing his kids (he wasn't and they stood up for him), yes a gang beat the shit out of him multiple times but later became supportive and looked out for them, yes he pulled the girls out of competitive matches while they were dominating the country so they could focus on school and be kids, and yes he turned down that gigantic Nike deal. One thing I really loved about the movie was that the actresses who portrayed the Williams sisters actually knew how to play tennis. So many times I'm watching a sports movie and the actors have no clue how to throw a football or throw a baseball. It's infuriating. Tennis is even more complicated with the technique and skill, but it was knocked out of the park with 'King Richard.'
Will Smith deserves this Oscar. In my mind it's the performance of his career. I'm sure someone was really good in a silent foreign film that no one saw that was critically acclaimed, but he carried this movie and was a perfect portrayal of Richard Williams. Give him the hardware.
P.S. Jon Bernthal plays a fantastic Rick Macci. Dude is hilarious in this and should be up for supporting actor too if the awards people do their job right.