Film ratings

Review and summary of the movie King Richard (2021)

As Richard cannot reproduce by osmosis, “King Richard” reminds us that the Williams sisters had a mother, Brandy, played by the ever-welcome Aunjanue Ellis. Ellis is somewhat trapped in the role of “supportive spouse who puts up with a bunch of bullshit but has her own dreams,” but she has two knockout scenes that reinforce why she’s one of my favorite actors currently in business. The bigger and more impressive of the two occurs when she is finally tired of her husband’s martyrdom. Brandy reads her hubby for dirt, and the electricity between fiery Ellis and the backing up but still proud Smith makes it one of the best scenes of the year. It’s a smaller version of Viola Davis’ masterful scene opposite Denzel Washington in “Fences” – Brandy and Rose say the same thing, fighting and defeating the same type of enemy – but it’s just as memorable.

Director Reinaldo Marcus Green is much better at directing dramatic scenes than he is at tennis sequences. They have a flat, repetitive quality that doesn’t reflect how exciting they were in real life. As it has to end, as all sports movies do, with the big game it could have been a major deficit. But “King Richard” is smart enough to know that his strength lies in his acting, so he cuts wisely between the action of the play and Richard and Brandy’s reactions and monologues. Green is also much better at conveying the intensity of threats to Compton (a shocking scene of violence is superbly handled by the director and Smith) than he is at portraying the inherent racism that prevails in lily-White clubs where Venus and Serena clash. They seem too sweet and pleasant, although Jon Bernthal gives a good, frustration-filled turn as coach Rick Macci.

Much will be done for Smith’s performance, which is excellent, and I hope Ellis receives all the praise she deserves. But Sidney and Singleton are also to be congratulated on their excellent work as Venus and Serena. Both have difficult roles to play, respectively that of the rising star and the budding star temporarily trapped in its shadow. Plus, unlike Will Smith, they have to emulate two of the greatest athletes to play any sport. They should be kept in the conversation, as it is action at all levels that ultimately saves “King Richard”. He earns the extra half star which makes him a “thumbs up” review. At 140 minutes, the movie is about half an hour too long, but everyone on screen made the extra time a lot more tolerable than it could have been.

“King Richard” will be available in theaters and on HBO Max on November 19.