“King Richard”…..was a tempting story I admittedly tried avoiding. The fact that they had a movie clearly about Venus and Serena Williams’ rise to the top and yet they made it about the father was, I guess, a bit of a turnoff? But after watching this, I’m glad I gave it a chance because now I kind of know why they told the story from his perspective……and why I contemplated seeing this in the first place.
This was a mostly solid biopic about the length some will go to ensure their kids achieve their goals, the impressive outlook on the power of love and what it takes to overcome adversity with a stable support system; the only major difference here amongst every other biopic that has done this is mainly due to the directing. Reinaldo Marcus Green knows how to wrap his finger around a scene to get the audience to illicit an emotional response without having it feel entirely manipulative; smart enough to know the movies strengths, when to utilize it and how to weaponize it for the long run. The simplistic and overdone “happy ending” doesn’t fit this type of story and what partially makes this movie compelling is how much Green knows this.
It’s a real type of story that doesn't completely hide the struggle and although not everything actually pays off, you feel like SOME progression has taken place. While not completely transcending the sport biopic formulas we’re accustomed to seeing, the more predictable inspirational sports material is thankfully a secondary element for a character study of a uniquely difficult but fascinating human being; more on that later. Zach Baylin’s script allows the grimy dexterity of Richards teachings and Green’s directing to wrap a leash on us without being too forceful while the presentation makes use of intimate cinematography that tries to squeeze life out of every frame it can even if unnecessary, mostly compelling editing and Will Smith greets us with not one but TWO MORE candidates for best actor. Because while this towering presence might be his best performance yet, Aunjanue Ellis is the one who took home the crown. Demi Singleton and Saniyya Sidney have very difficult roles to play to top that and they come VERY CLOSE a lot of times.
But then we have issues, like the pacing: The film itself is slow and repetitive (which is sort of the point), but there a lot of long scenes that often detract from whenever it builds momentum. Some editing choices are unnecessary near the end, and considering I did some research about Richard before I watched the movie, getting attached to Will Smith’s portrayal of him became rather difficult after a while.
I know he’s supposed to be one of those tough father figures and he has a LOT of good points but given the….messed-up real life context of him, it’s a more or less a missed opportunity for me. Had this man been portrayed in a more honest approach and questioned his methods to bring light to his inherent contradictions, this could’ve been a therapeutic lifting within a character assassination and while he still wouldn’t be entirely accurate to his real-life counterpart, his deconstruction, at least, would’ve felt more complete.
All of that said though, this is one of the better sport biopics out but only by technicality. I can’t deny its success and I can’t pretend it’s heart is in the right place.