The film King Richard was released on Nov. 19. It is a biographical drama about Richard Williams, the father and coach of tennis players Venus and Serena Williams. The film follows Richard as he raises the girls in California and into the start of their professional tennis careers.
Richard Williams planned to train Venus and Serena to go pro before they were even born and had a 78-page plan detailing how he would get them to that level. He raised the girls in Compton, California, considering tennis and schoolwork to be the distraction his kids needed to stay off the streets. In 1990, the family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, so the girls could attend the Rick Macci International Tennis Academy.
Venus and Serena Williams are considered two of the most well-known and decorated tennis players now, but they had the odds stacked against them growing up. Most players only have to worry about gaining the skill to beat their competition and get to the professional level, but the Williams sisters had to do this in a predominately rich, white sport as self-taught black players from Compton.
There was a significant racial impact that the entire Williams family experienced throughout their lives. A lot of Richard Williams’s protectiveness of his daughters came from his experiences with racism growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana. As a kid, Richard had problems with the Klu Klux Klan and prejudiced police. He even tells Venus that as a kid he was beaten up for accidentally touching a white man’s hands, and his dad just walked away instead of helping him. Richard tells Venus that he has to be so protective and careful of his kids because his dad didn’t do anything to protect him growing up. In a well-known interview with 14-year-old Venus at the Rick Macci Academy, Richard interrupts an interviewer who is questioning.
My favorite thing about the movie was the unconventional behavior of Richard Williams in his search for tennis coaches and his journey to get his daughters into professional tennis. During Venus and Serena’s childhood, Richard made videos of his daughters practicing and would go to different tennis clubs in the area showing the videos and giving out pamphlets he made to try to get coaches to offer their services to the girls for free. He met many famous tennis players in his search, including Vic Braden, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras, but they all thought his plan was far-fetched and eccentric. In hindsight, those coaches made a huge mistake by not giving Venus and Serena a chance, but at the time, it was unbelievable to them that these two girls from Compton could be the greatest athletes of all time.
Although the movie was about Richard Williams, it didn’t hide the truth to only portray him in a positive light. During an argument with his wife, it’s mentioned that he has another son that he didn’t raise who showed up unannounced at his house with his new family. The film also shows how stubborn Richard is and how his judgment wasn’t always respected or what was best for his kids. In fact, he was always known for his controversial statements and actions. He would interrupt his daughters’ free coaching lessons to tell them to do things differently, would pull them out of junior tournaments, and wouldn’t ask his wife or daughters if they were okay with the decisions he was making for them. Although acts like this were because he thought he was protecting his kids, we do see a ‘selfish’ side of him where he puts his own worries onto Venus and Serena and jeopardizes their futures.
Although the movie was over two and a half hours long, every scene felt necessary to the storyline and I never felt like it was dragging on. I definitely recommend watching it since the movie was really inspiring and showed a side of the Williams family that we don’t always know about. I went into this movie thinking it would be the story of Venus and Serena Williams’s early tennis career, but I think that more than anything it’s a story of a man trying to protect his kids.
Unfortunately, the movie has only made $11 million compared to its $50 million dollar budget right now, but hopefully, it’ll make the money up in the upcoming weeks. However, the film has already been nominated for six awards and Will Smith is predicted to win an Oscar for Best Actor.