Did you succeed at meeting your New Year’s resolution for 2021? I know I didn’t. Heck, I bet a lot of you didn’t. And we most likely won’t meet our resolutions for 2022 either. That’s just human nature: planning is in the backseat when it should be taking the steering wheel of our brains. So now more than ever we need to hear about one man who did not fail to achieve a goal for his own daughters, even starting a plan for stardom on the days they were born. Because of how much sweat and tears he poured out, every one of his predictions he made about his daughters, Serena and Venus, came true. That man’s name is Richard Williams, or King Richard as this movie calls him, and we all would do well by following his example.
Just don’t follow this film’s guidance too closely, it was made by human beings, after all. The plot lays out Serena and Venus’ rise to stardom, but because Venus is the one picked to compete for the championship, Serena is shoved to the side for much of the time. So because there’s not enough space for the two girls to interact, the story eventually starts to drag. Richard likes to call this tale of his daughters “Ghetto Cinderella,” mainly because of a lesson he teaches them; he makes the whole family watch the Disney movie Cinderella to follow the princess’ example of not only being polite and a wishful dreamer, but ultimately remaining humble and calm no matter what anyone else says.
However, Richard also skims over the fact that Cinderella was in an abusive relationship and needed to get out. These girls need a better lesson than that, even if their dad’s intentions are good for the motivation of every young Black girl of today. Also, this film really isn’t in a position where it can proudly say that old Disney films are the best examples for kids to look up to, considering its narrative beats also stumble into familiar Oscar-bait territory. For example, it has the cliché scene of the kids sitting at the top of the stairs as they listen to their parents argue downstairs, one of which is a nagging wife, and the other is a self-indulged father who wants to force his passion onto his kids.
The cinematography has a rather bland visual style as well, there’s too much glare on the windows when the actors are behind them, there’s a clear lack of control over the natural sunlight, and the night scenes are too dark. These hindrances add up to rather dull scenes on the tennis court that toss the focus onto the wrong places. Perhaps the only perfectly shot scene is one when the family prays together before dinner at a fast-food restaurant.
But the film’s atrocious look is gladly made up for by the powerful performances of the entire cast. Starting with the flawless Jon Bernthal, who plays the world-famous tennis coach, Rick Macci, it’s always clear exactly what he’s thinking just by looking into his eyes. Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton—the two girls playing Venus and Serena, likewise, deserve some mad respect for how much tennis training they had to go through. What’s even more amazing is that the run time goes on for nearly two-and-a-half hours, but it strangely doesn’t feel too long since every actor is giving his or her all.
The efforts of the cast help create the rare type of sports movie where the talking scenes are more engaging than the gameplay scenes. It’s just like watching a movie made in the 1990s, or better yet, a documentary made in that time since it feels so real. Even the music and cinematography, as obtrusive as they may be, stylistically appear as if they came right out of a 90s movie. Very warm lighting envelops the air while the family is in the ghetto, then on a road trip to Florida, the blue sky is made more apparent, but the lighting remains rather warm. So a distinction marks each location, but the tone stays the same. Not only do those who lived throughout the 90s know that the family is at the hottest point of their lives, but they also feel nostalgic for the time without any doses of pop culture needed. Now that is some careful directing skills at work!
But easily the most powerful, most effective component that made this motion picture a success is the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith. Now though, he’s a king, a king who very well could get his first Oscar win! Smith doesn’t even seem like he’s acting here, he just naturally disappears into the role to the point where the casual viewer would forget he’s Will Smith, and genuinely believe he’s Richard Williams. Smith creates a controlling dad who’s still likable, but thankfully not the kind of likable often thought of when remembering back to his regular acting gigs. Richard Williams may force his girls to practice in the rain, but he’s still someone worth rooting for, purely because Smith so strongly conveys the justification of his deepest desire.
At one level, you can see King Richard as a feel-good inspirational sports biopic made for Academy Award enthusiasts; while it’s awesome to see these girls go from sharing a room with their three other stepsisters to earning fame from their hard work, there’s more to it. Seeing a Black man helping his girls go from the ghetto to stardom doesn’t just provide some hope in a dark time for the Black community of America, it’s a valuable message for all of us. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, and planning for success starts right at the beginning, that way, we don’t end up with a regrettable present.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!