Movie #31 2022: King Richard (2021)

Well. This is awkward, isn’t it? Truth is, I watched King Richard before the Oscars ceremony, therefore I also saw it before… well, you know what. All I’ll say is, this isn’t the place for my opinion on what happened. I’ll continue to review this using the notes I took beforehand, perhaps with a few amendments just to put things into context.

King Richard is the movie adaptation of exactly how Venus and Serena Williams became the phenomenon that they are. Although, quite weirdly, the film focuses mainly on their father and how he trained them, coached them, and thrust them into the limelight in order to make their dreams (and his, for that matter) come true. I say “weirdly” because you’d think a movie about the Williams sisters would be just that: a movie about the Williams sisters. Yet somehow, it’s a movie about their Dad for the most part. Regardless, for what it’s worth, it’s actually quite a good feature film.

Turns out, King Richard is a pretty formulaic sports movie… so I’m not really sure why I didn’t expect to love it?! If you know a single thing about my taste in movies, you’ll know that I’m a sucker for the sports variety. They get me every time. Being so surprised that I liked it quite a lot seems ridiculous in hindsight.

Initially, I was a little concerned that this movie was not going to be about Venus or Serena and be all about their Dad, which is something I’ve clearly pointed out already. Turns out, I had no need to be worried. This is a really great debut screenplay from Zach Baylin and whilst it is about Richard, it does not neglect the talent of his daughters. The screenplay is so good in fact that I was surprised to see it was Baylin’s first. Well paced, funny, tear-jerking and realistic. This is definitely not the last we’ve seen from this guy. 

Now here’s one of those aforementioned amendments I mentioned earlier. Before the Academy Awards took place, I wrote this sentence:

“Rumour has it that Will Smith is gonna win the Oscar. After seeing this, I would not be surprised.”

Turns out, I was completely right. This is one of those rare performances where you don’t see a megastar, and instead you see Richard god damn Williams. Smith’s win was truly deserved based on the movie alone. Again, I’m not going to state my opinions on that other incident here, but in terms of this performance, it was clear that Smith was going to win. My only gripe in terms of the cast is Aunjanue Ellis… because she does not get anywhere near enough to do! What a talented actress. I really hope to see more of her work. The fact that she was even nominated in the Supporting Actress category is an actual miracle, because she garnered so little screen time that it’s wild the Academy even noticed her, if I’m honest.

Filmmaking-wise, there’s nothing specifically creative or ground-breaking about the way it’s shot or assembled. What it is though is very consistent and solidly crafted. Despite it being a touch longer than it needed to be, King Richard is very good at drawing you in and keeping you invested. Even though you pretty much know where it’s going, it is quite an original twist on what could have been another carbon copy biopic.

Although it is sickly sweet at times, there’s a lot to appreciate about the way this movie is written and performed, and it really does what it aims to. Look, I was already a big fan of the Williams sisters before this. Now I feel like a proud aunt. I really recommend at least one viewing despite that now infamous event.

King Richard is available to rent on Apple TV+ and Amazon for £4.99 in the UK.

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