It all started with news. The family of Richard (Will Smith) and Oracine (Aunjanue Ellis) already had three children – these were Oracine’s children from a previous marriage. But one day, Richard heard on the news that the winner of the French Open, Romanian Virginia Ruzici, received forty thousand dollars for winning the tournament. Just think, four days of the tournament – forty thousand dollars, and he, Richard, earns fifty thousand for the whole year. It looks like he’s obviously doing something wrong. After that, Richard told his wife that they should have two more children and make tennis stars out of them. And to give birth – to start training from early childhood. And Richard clearly knew how he would act: he had previously painted a detailed plan for the preparation of future champions, and this plan took up as many as seventy-eight pages.
First they had Venus (Saniya Sidney), and a year later Serena (Demi Singleton). They began to train them from the age of three, and the girls immediately played with adult rackets, since there was simply no money for children’s rackets. Richard also could not rent normal courts, so the girls had to train on old broken-down public courts.
Between training sessions, which became more and more intense, Richard began to look for a coach who would agree to work with young talents without payment – based on future profits.
Venus and Serena Williams are some of the most famous female tennis players in the world. In terms of the number of titles in the main tennis tournaments in singles, Serena ranks second in the history of women’s tennis, second only to Margaret Smith-Court.
And, of course, it was interesting for me to see a picture in which the audience was promised to be told about the formation of Venus and Serena as athletes. Sports dramas, and even based on real events, are almost always very interesting, and then there is Will Smith in the lead role, and for this role he finally received an Oscar (before that he had only nominations for the film ” Ali” in 2002 and for the painting “The Pursuit of Happyness” in 2007).
So, I watched this film, watched it – and gradually amazement grew in me. Because I was sort of promised a biographical sports drama, but I didn’t see any sports drama here. This is a film about a dad who is determined to achieve financial success with the help of specially conceived children, who were trained hard from childhood, aiming for serious sporting achievements.
At the same time, it must be said that dad was really very stubborn in achieving his goals and acted according to a detailed plan, which he independently compiled long before the birth of Venus and Serena.
We were also shown how daddy tried to swindle famous tennis coaches, offering them free lessons with his daughters. Well, in the picture we were even generous to show a piece of the Venus match in her debut tournament, in which she almost defeated the second racket of the world Arancha Sanchez Vicario.
Well, we understand that dad, for all his purposefulness, was just lucky that both daughters really had very outstanding sports data that allowed them to rise to the very top in tennis.
After watching the film, I began to find out various information about him. The script of the picture was written by a certain Zach Bailin, who generally has the very first script. The film was directed by a certain Reinaldo Marcus Green, whose track record, in addition to several films that no one has seen, only includes “Good Joe Bell” – about a hard worker who crossed all of America on foot to draw attention to the persecution of LGBT teenagers. The hard worker is played by Mark Wahlberg, but the film’s ratings are extremely low and it grossed less than $2 million at the worldwide box office.
I looked into the production staff. Immediately somehow everything cleared up: Venus Williams and Serena Williams are executive producers along with Will Smith. And it became clear why in the scriptwriters you don’t understand who (wrote what they indicated) and why in the directors you don’t understand who (performed purely technical functions, and, apparently, Will Smith steered the picture, who scrolled similar things in some other films, which he produced).
That is, this is such a purely family jeans, which the Williams sisters ordered as a gift for their father Richard, who is due to turn eighty next year. And Will Smith in this project saw an almost win-win option to get at least an Oscar nomination (the previous nomination was fifteen years ago), well, we know that he eventually received this Oscar, so by subscribing to a similar project , completely wrong.
The film’s budget was $50 million, and it is known from several sources that Will Smith’s total fee as an actor and producer was about $40 million, and that he paid bonuses to the film crew from this fee.
What did they end up with? The film turned out to be completely toothless, even lubok, there is no “formation of Venus and Serena” here, and Venus and Serena themselves are pure functions, not living people: white-toothed smiles are like from an advertisement for dentistry, but they say something, only to pronounce something like: “Yes, daddy”, “Of course, daddy”, “Exactly, daddy”.
The main character here is Richard Williams, who – yes: a little stubborn, quite a bit tyrannical, a little comical, constantly annoying any coaches, but a very cute (according to the film) character who fought so hard for his daughters to become champions! And since we all know that they became them in reality, it turns out that Papa Richard was completely right. No one believed, only he alone believed and hoped, hoped and believed.
Will Smith perfectly played the on-screen Richard: a man stooping under everyday adversity, a slightly guilty look, in which at the same time the determination to do everything as he sees fit, the eternal sports jacket and white tennis shorts, in which he spent almost the entire film, a strange gait and a Louisiana accent. I don’t know how much this role pulls on the main Oscar, but Will Smith is really very good here, and if the picture is worth seeing, it’s because of him alone.
Aunjanue Ellis, who played Oracine Williams, has a relatively small role, and the actress has had few opportunities to express herself somehow. Moreover, the on-screen Oracin does not have any special conflicts with her husband: there, in my opinion, there was only one moment in the entire film where Oracin reproached Richard for something at all.
Yes, and Jon Bernthal, who portrayed the head of the tennis academy from Florida, Rick Macci, who agreed to train the Williams sisters for free, also had nowhere to turn around, the role was quite episodic.
So we admire King Richard and applaud the triumph of the parental ambitions of this man who programmed future champions even before they were born, stubbornly led them along this path, and his daughters did not let him down – they reached almost the maximum heights in the tennis world, because they simply did not want to upset daddy.
In fact, the story of Venus and Serena Williams is a classic “survivor’s mistake”. Because there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of crazy parents who deprive their children of a normal childhood in the name of their own ambitions and desire to make good money on the success of their offspring. And almost a few of their children achieve real success. And if Venus and Serena are almost a single example of how it all turned out, then how many hundreds of thousands of children and childhood have lost, and as a result, they have not achieved anything in life, and such stories end, as a rule, very, very badly: depression, drugs , suicide and other very sad things.
Therefore, you look at this Richard – and somehow you are not at all drawn to rejoice at his methods and the fact that Venus and Serena succeeded. Well, it turned out lucky.
By the way, the real Richard Williams, which could be expected, in reality is not at all such a charming and purposeful man in touching white shorts. No, Venus and Serena really feel great gratitude for him and do not get tired of repeating this, but if they shot a real story, then everything in it would not be so complacent at all.
Just some facts. In 1965, Richard married Betty Johnson. The couple had six children who stayed with their mother when Richard divorced Betty eight years later. In 1980, Richard met Oracin Price, who had three daughters from a previous marriage, they married and had Venus and Serena. At that time, the family lived in a quite prosperous area of Long Beach in California, where they had a large house bought with a mortgage.
When Serena was one and a half years old, Richard moved the family from Long Beach to Compton, a ghetto in Los Angeles. He did this, firstly, because housing there was much cheaper than in Long Beach, and, secondly, and it was directly stated to them that life in the ghetto, full of dangers, tempered the characters of Venus and Serena. At the same time, as far as I read, one of the half-sisters of tennis players in Compton died (I don’t know the details).
In Florida, where the family moved when Rick Macci agreed to take the girls to his tennis school, the police somehow received complaints about Oracin, who had been beaten and had three broken ribs. Then it was suspected that the woman received these beatings from Richard, but she refused to write a statement against him, so the case was hushed up. (Perhaps Oracin did not want to harm her daughters by spinning this case.)
However, in 2002, Oracin filed a complaint against Richard, who threatened her with a weapon during an argument, after which she left their common home and began divorce proceedings. Richard then met a girl named Lakaisha Graham, who was only a year older than Venus, married her in 2010, she gave birth to his son Dylan. In 2017, they divorced, and the divorce was very scandalous.
By the way, about the extraordinary fertility of Richard. Six children from the first marriage, two children from the second, a child from the third, while Serena herself claimed that her father also had other illegitimate children, and she herself allegedly said in an interview with The Sun that she had about fifteen or twenty brothers and sisters, but, however, I did not check this information.
So it is very similar to the fact that the real portrait of the hero is somewhat far from what we were drawn in the film. I understood this well while watching, and after getting acquainted with various materials, I was clearly convinced of this later.
The result is a not-so-biographical, non-sports, and non-drama, with a really great performance by Will Smith, portraying the spherical father of Venus and Serena Williams in the vacuum of a mostly fictional world. It was all tailored for various cinematic awards, and this film received so many awards that it would not be possible to take it all in one hat: if we talk about the most important ones – the award for the best male role of Will Smith in the Actors Guild Awards, the BAFTA awards, the Golden Globe and Oscar.
Is he worth it? The role itself – well, I don’t know, but the role is really good, it’s a serious acting job. Is the film worthy of any awards? This is such a family jeans, on which the Williams sisters could well afford to spend several tens of millions. Is it necessary to watch it? It is quite possible to look at the work of Will Smith. But as a movie itself – no, it’s not “becoming Venus and Serena”, it’s something completely different. It’s good when for a purely family jeans you can invite Will Smith and pay him forty million dollars. Yes, and Will Smith did not lose at all – there are so many awards.
PS Of course, I can’t help but write that the Williams sisters controlled the entire production process so carefully that all the things that the characters in the film are wearing are completely authentic, that’s exactly how they dressed then. This is very important for understanding their history. To which I subscribe.
King Richard review
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green Cast: Will Smith, Aunjanue Ellis, Saniya Sidney, Demi Singleton, Jon Bernthal, Tony Goldwyn, Mikayla Lashay Bartholomew, Danielle Lawson, Lila Crawford, Erica Ringor
Budget: $50M, Worldwide Grossing: $38M
Biographical sports drama, USA, 2021, 144 min.