KING RICHARD
(***)-VITO CARLI

"...the film is not really about the girls so much as it is about the-God like dad."

A Successful Family Sports Film

(030422) King Richard is a well-made, old-fashioned, feel-good drama about a family that raises two prize winning tennis stars, Serena (Simayya Sidney) and Venus Williams (Demi Singleton). The acting is always quite effective and the film is frequently touching with a glorious, uplifting ending. Will Smith received an Oscar nomination for the title role. He is quite convincing and this might be his best performance except for his role in The Pursuit of Happyness. The Oscar voters could have made worse best actor choices.

At the start in the early 90s, Richard (Smith), and his wife are barely getting by in a lower class neighborhood, she is a nurse and he is a security officer. They struggle to make a good home for their five girls who all sleep in the same bedroom. Their girls, Serena and Venus play at a modest tennis court in the park, and Richard shows admirable restraint when he is taunted and even beaten by local ruffians who disrespected his daughters. There are constant obstacles. The nosy neighbor mistakes Richard’s rigorous exercise program for abuse and calls child protection on the parents. Also, the shabby athletic facilities are no place to train champions and Richard schemes to get their daughters in better courts. Richard tries to inspire the girls toward excellence and he even tells them, “You’re going to recommend every black girl on earth.”

The dad and mom make incredible sacrifices to help their daughters realize their dream of becoming world class athletes. Richard gets angry when higher class people talk to him condescendingly, and it seems like his temper might eventually cost the girls some opportunities. The father often makes scenes, and is aggressive, but his obstinance begins to pay huge dividends when a high profile player agrees to coach one of the girls.

The film was directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green who also made Monsters and Men as well as the Mark Wahlberg vehicle, Joe Bell. I have a pet peeve about the film that some might find trivial. There are very few films about female athletes and for every girl fight, there are six or seven Rocky films. You would think this story might be the perfect opportunity to make a female athlete centered film. But the film is not really about the girls so much as it is about the wonderful, terrific, dedicated God like dad who gets the girls to “walk on water.” There is a reason the film is called King Richard and not Queen Serena.

Someday, I would like to see a movie about Venus or Serena that is told from their points of view. This is curious since Serena and Venus are credited as executive producers of the film. The way the film presents the story, Serena and Venus have almost no say in their own lives or destinies. It all works out in the end, but is this supposed to be ok?

Although the film is a full two hours and 18 minutes long, it never feels like it is pushing its luck. To me every Adam Sandler comedy feels twice as long as this film. You might be wondering if this film deserves its nomination for best picture. While King Richard is good and at times even excellent, there is nothing extraordinary about it. It is certainly not in the same league as some of the other best picture nominees like
Licorice Pizza, Dune, or Power of the Dog, and it is not nearly as groundbreaking as many films that were snubbed by the Oscars like Annette, Titane or The Tragedy of Macbeth.

Still the film succeeds most of the time, and it is a small triumph, and best of all it can be enjoyed by film viewers of almost all ages equally.
 

Directed by:    Reinaldo Marcus Green
Written by:    Zach Baylin
Starring:    Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Demi Singleton
Released:    111821 (US)
Length:    138 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG-13 for some violence, strong language, a
 sexual reference and brief drug references
Available On:    The film did not play in theatres in Chicago, but it is
 available for streaming on Vudu and MUBI

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

Vittorio will host a lecture/work shop for the Chicago Poetry Festival at Beverly Library on April 2 at 2:00 pm on Poetry and Punk.

KING RICHARD © 2022 Warner Bros.
Review © 2022 Alternate Reality, Inc.

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