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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Dec 10, 2021



‘KING RICHARD’ is obviously made as an acting vehicle for Will Smith as Richard Williams, the father of tennis legends Venus and Serena. 

Their mom is Oracene Price (Aunjanue Ellis) who has three daughters from a previous marriage. 

The film, which is too long at two hours and a half, focuses primarily on the early years of their training and ends when Venus first competes professionally at 14. 

Richard works as a security guard at night. During the day, he trains Venus and Serena in the tennis courts of Compton, California, where they live. 

His vision for his daughters is written in a plan of 70 plus pages, determined to make them tennis champions. 

He offers them to professional coaches so they can get formal training, but most of them just ignore him as he insists he has a plan on how they’ll succeed and nothing will dissuade him from this plan.

Initially, they get Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn) to coach the girls but he will train only one girl for free, not both. Richard goes with Venus to the country club for training and he tapes it with a camcorder.

With the videos, they then also teach Serena so she can get the same kind of professional training regimen. Eventually, they get Rick Macci (Jon Bertrand) to coach the girls in Florida. 

Right off, we’d see this is not a movie about the Williams sisters and their rise in the sport of tennis. It is centered on their demanding father. But this is not a warts-and-all filmbio of Richard Williams.

It’s meant to be just a tribute to him so he can gloat and tell all those who made of fun of him, including nosey neighbors who think he’s abusing his daughters: “I told you my daughters would be successful athletes.” 

And we suppose he proved  that his unorthodox methods are right, as Venus and Serena both became huge success and inspirations to young black kids after they excelled in a sport that used to be exclusive to privileged whites. 

But it’s all because their dedicated and hard-woRking dreamer of a dad really worked hard for them to achieve their goals. 

The film’s climax is Venus’ first tournament as a professional player when she faced the then number one Spanish seed player, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. 

It ends with a caption saying that Venus was signed up by Reebok in a $12 million endorsement deal. It does not make any mention of all their future wins.  

The movie is really a sanitized version of the Mr. Williams. In real life, he has been married thrice. He first married Betty Johnson in 1965 and they have three sons and two daughters. 

They divorced in 1973. In 1980, he married Oracene, who’d be the mother of Venus (born June 17, 1980) and Serena (born September 26, 1981.) 

They divorced in 2002 and he married a much younger girl in 2010 who’s just a year older than Venus. They divorced in 2017. 

We read that his eldest daughter from his first marriage, Sabrina Williams, criticized the movie for not mentioning his past, particularly the wife and family he abandoned. 

She also said their father just used Venus and Serena to make himself wealthy.  

Of course, Director Reinaldo Marcus Green (best known for the drama about corrupt cops, “Monsters and Men”), and his writer, Zach Baylin, will ignore that since the movie’s main aim is to crown him as King Richard. 

He might be a bully and a tyrant to his family, but it’s all because he wants his daughters to succeed. 

The movie is not a biography but more of a crowd-pleasing hagiography that projects him as the committed and sacrificial father who’s willing to be beaten up by local gangs just to protect his daughters. 

As far as that is concerned, no doubt Will Smith succeeds in fully inhabiting the character, shedding of his familiar winning charisma that we’ve seen in his action-comedy films.


But at film’s end, we see actual footage of the real Richard Williams and he’s nothing like the magnetic Will Smith. 

The onscreen Richard comes across as a well-meaning, non-threatening country bumpkin from Louisiana, even when he abruptly stops a news reporter who keeps on bugging Venus about her unshakeable self confidence. 

Sorry but the real Richard, who’s also much darker, does not come across that way. 

Will's portrayal of a complex sports figure, Muhammad Ali, in the 2001 biopic that gave him an Oscar nomination, is actually more moving, but he lost then to another black actor, Denzel Washington for “Training Day”. 

We think though, that the one who deserved to win that year was Russell Crowe for “A Beautiful Mind”, but academy voters were turned off after he shoved off a TV executive in London in the BAFTA awards where he just won as best actor after he’s told to shorten his acceptance speech.

Will gets great support from Anjanue Ellis who brings the needed balance in their lives as Oracene, specially when she speaks with irritation against her husband’s recalcitrance. 

Saniyya Sidney as Venus and Demi Singleton as Serena are both so impressive in trying to match the smart and perky style of playing of the real Williams sisters.