If you watch one movie with the family over the Thanksgiving break, make it the Will Smith-starring King Richard. This is one of those once-in-a-while sports dramas with so much to offer beyond good feels and a touching message. It’s the full package, showcasing many of the year’s very best acting performances, film direction, screenwriting, cinematography, editing — we could go through nearly every filmmaking category. It’s just that well made, in addition to being a smart, moving and intense film that takes big swings and makes contact every time.
For many, the story of Venus and Serena Williams (portrayed with astonishing grace and heart by Saniyaa Sidney and Demi Singleton in King Richard) is only known after they arrived like an earthquake on the tennis scene and shook the game’s foundation with their one-two punch of incredible talent. They held the No. 1 world title for a combined 327 weeks and won 127 singles titles altogether. The Williams devotion to one another and familial love pushed them through personal challenges and numerous battles on the court. What happened leading up to their history-making success is the great stuff of King Richard.
This is a loving tribute to not only the Williams sisters’ upbringing under the stern but fair rule of their father, the self-sacrificing Richard Williams (a never-better Smith), but also their loving mother, Oracene “Brandy” Williams (an equally as powerful Aunjanue Ellis). She challenges Richard - and the audience - with her many teachable moments and extraordinary strength.
One of my favorite quotes of all-time is “speak softly and carry a big pen.” I’ve tried to carry that with me everywhere I go as a writer because it’s so easy these days to allow the outside noise to consume you. And King Richard is all about the value in being humble. Among its simple beauty, cleverness and good laughs (Jon Bernthal’s tennis coach character will widen your smiles throughout) is an authentically human story about staying true to yourself, showing respect and spreading kindness. It sounds like a typical sports movie message, but King Richard handles it with class and makes a lasting impact.
Feel your heart grow in size and absorb this film’s beauty from top to bottom.
- An unforgettable kitchen scene between Mr. Smith and Ms. Ellis. It will lock your attention into place with its dramatic force. Seriously. Two of the very best performances of the year.
- It’s overall Moneyball-like tone and narrative structure. (A personal fave of mine.)
- Another shoutout to Bernthal’s work. His coach shorts, ‘80s mustache and super-specific dialect are pure joy.
- The final moment of the film.