"King Richard" - The Man Behind the Legend

"King Richard" - The Man Behind the Legend

The film "King Richard," starring Will Smith, is based on the true story of the efforts of Venus and Serena Williams - tennis legends.

The film received six Oscar nominations in 2022, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Will Smith), Best Supporting Actress (Aunjanue Ellis), Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing, and Best Original Song ("Be Alive" by Beyoncé). This project marks Will Smith's return to the screen, his most prominent contender since "Gemini Man" (2019).

The work follows the journey of Richard Williams, the father who nurtured and trained two talented athletes to become tennis champions. Set in the 1990s in Compton, South Los Angeles, USA, a predominantly African American neighborhood, the film captures the early years of Venus and Serena Williams' tennis careers. During the day, Richard and his daughters trained on public tennis courts. At night, he worked as a security guard at a local market to support his family of seven. He spent time taking his daughters to wealthy tennis courts to showcase their talents to coaches but was consistently rejected and even mocked.

Maintaining faith, the father took his daughters to the training court of coach Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwin) for guidance. However, only Venus received approval from the coach and subsequently won a junior tennis tournament. Disagreeing with Cohen, Richard sought out Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal), the coach of professional tennis player Jennifer Capriati, for further training. From there, Richard and Rick provided skill support for Venus. Richard's wife, Oracene Williams (Aunjanue Ellis), provided unwavering support and encouragement to her husband and daughters.

Will Smith's authentic portrayal is a significant strength of the film. The actor embodies the psyche of a father, a companion, and protector of his children. Richard lived by principles, meticulously planning his strategies. He persisted in pursuing goals, having a broad vision of how his daughters would succeed after rigorous training.

With five children, Richard didn't favor anyone, always seeking to protect his children from society's pitfalls. He endured being attacked by gangsters and previously fought a gang leader for disrespecting his eldest daughter, Tunde. He rejected lucrative contracts from those who prioritized their interests over his daughters' talents.

Richard didn't impose his will on his children but taught them practical life lessons to experience. He taught them to be prepared to face any situation and to overcome adversity. He showed his children the Cinderella cartoon to learn humility and emphasized that nothing in life comes for free.

One of the film's touching scenes is when Richard interrupts Venus' interview - she was just 14 years old - on national TV in 1994 when the interviewer tried to make the young African American doubt her talent. Richard demonstrated that he wouldn't compromise in situations where his children were subjected to society's judgments or prejudices.

Young actors Saniyya Sidney (Venus Williams) and Demi Singleton (Serena) put in commendable efforts portraying the influential tennis players. Both spent months learning professional tennis. Saniyya and Demi's performances were cohesive. In their respective scenes, Saniyya effectively displayed Venus's focus and athletic spirit during competitions, while Demi elicited empathy as she felt inadequate compared to her sister. Alongside these promising young actors, director Reinaldo Marcus Green also used real tennis players to enhance the authenticity of the matches.

The film unfolds linearly, maximizing the technique of "cutting on action" to seamlessly transition between scenes, creating a coherent narrative within the same setting. Notable are scenes showing Venus playing on the tennis court with wide shots, followed by close-ups capturing her movements, providing viewers with a sense of being directly involved in the match.

The use of over-the-shoulder shots in dialogue scenes effectively led the film's storytelling, making viewers feel part of the conversation, notably in the dialogues between Rick Macci and the Williams family in their first meeting, or the arguments between Richard and his wife when he disagreed with Venus pursuing professional tennis.

In addition to depicting the harsh realities of gangs in Compton, "King Richard" also condemns racial discrimination in America. The film addresses the protagonist's past experiences, where he was repeatedly attacked by white people. The filmmakers use Richard, Venus, and Serena's images to amplify the voices of the African American community, promoting female empowerment. According to Harper's Bazaar, Beyoncé's song "Be Alive" at the end of the film honors the sisters' resilience and victories.

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