King Richard had six Oscar nominations, including Best Film, Best Actor for Will Smith, Best Editing and Best Original Screenplay. Will Smith won the Oscar Best Actor award, as well as a BAFTA. It is director Reinaldo Marcus Green’s first feature film and he has won an award as Breakout Director from the African-American Film Critics Association. Based on the true story that will inspire the world, King Richard follows the uplifting journey of a family whose unwavering resolve and unconditional belief ultimately delivers two of the world’s greatest sports legends, the tennis champion Williams sisters. Armed with a clear vision and a brazen 78-page plan, Richard Williams is determined to write his daughters, Venus and Serena, into history. Training on Compton, California’s neglected tennis courts–rain or shine–the girls are shaped by their father’s unyielding commitment and their mother’s balanced perspective and keen intuition, defying the seemingly insurmountable odds and prevailing expectations laid before them.
Williams, as charismatically portrayed by Smith, is overwhelming. Obstinate. Bold. Savvy. Pugnacious. Selfless in that special way that somehow veers right back around to selfishness. On the subject of Venus and Serena, who he believes will be the future of tennis, he is also absolutely correct. Which leads to another of his standout qualities: He knows it. King Richard sayeth that these women will rule the world of sports. And they do. Williams’ fearsome need to do for his five daughters what his own father denied him is King Richard’s salient dramatic spark. It’s the scaffolding of the character and, accordingly, the movie. It’s the essence of who the movie says the man is.
There’s a strong, straightforward drama coursing through the heart of the movie, the predictable but satisfying undulation of the underdog story arc — in sum, the stuff that makes sports movies such reliable vehicles for tear-jerking, riveting storytelling. The world of tennis, and the prejudices that come with it, proves a key ingredient. Here, it is a world beset with stereotypes that have a twinge of satire, as during a succession of scenes in which every one of Venus’ white competitors storms off after losing, like entitled brats. The country clubs with their pools and high-end burgers, the Rick Macci tennis camp, the home the Williams are given to live in while they train: all of it stands in, not inaccurately, for the whiteness of the entire sport, the ease with which money is both a barrier and an expectation.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall