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'King Richard' Review: An inspiring biopic carried by Will Smith

'King Richard' - Reinaldo Marcus Green

It can be difficult to appreciate the monumental success of Venus and Serena Williams as the two icons of tennis have been playing at the very heights of the sport since the turn of the new century, the equivalent of a lifetime for so many young sports fans. As they now near the end of their incredible reign, after over twenty years of greatness, Reinaldo Marcus Green’s biopic about the upbringing of the two female icons couldn’t come at a more pertinent time. 

As the title of King Richard suggests, however, the film is as much about the Williams sisters as it is about their father Richard, depicted by Will Smith, who wrote out a detailed plan as to the direction of his daughter’s lives before they were even born. Raising them in his own image, living vicariously through their sustained success, the film tracks the remarkable efforts of the father in moulding two cultural figureheads. 

The film’s greatest challenge comes in balancing the intriguing story of the father and the popular success story of the Williams sisters, with Reinaldo Marcus Green doing well to balance the two, even if Smith steals the limelight much like he always does. Playing out as if a vehicle to bring the actor all the way to the Oscar podium, Smith carries the film on his shoulders, with the script demanding his presence even when it may not be entirely needed. 

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Even still, King Richard provides a rousing true story that sheds light on several aspects of an otherwise unknown tale of childhood success in which Richard Williams put his life and career on the line in order to forge a path of triumph for his daughters. Retelling the story with acting proficiency and a visceral pace when it comes to the frenetic tennis scenes, editor Pamela Martin does well to capture the intensity of a sport that often struggles cinematically. 

Whilst it certainly excels at the basics, King Richard certainly lacks to progress into something more profound, offering the basics of the story with solid performances across the board, and not much else. Though Zach Baylin puts together a competent original screenplay to work from, the script is gifted with the foundations of the incredible true story to build from, making the cinematic efforts a little less impressive. 

What Reinaldo Marcus Green’s biopic does offer is an inspiring take on the modern pursuit of the American dream from the perspective of a patriotic individual who truly believes in the myth of going from ‘rags to riches’. With a dogged attitude and a sincere focus on the task at hand, Smith’s Richard Williams is a fascinating figure whose identity is interestingly explored, even if it feels as though more could’ve been excavated. 

The product of its true story and incredible ensemble cast, Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis, who plays the Williams mother, are certainly deserving of their Oscar nominations for their leading and supporting performances, even if Saniyya Sidney also deserved recognition for her work as Venus. Each performance creates a loving cauldron that fuels this inspiring tale, with the core family feeling representative of the optimistic American dream in which anything and everything is possible with hard work and positivity.

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