BHM REVIEW: King Richard is Oscar bait done right


Renith R

Black tennis players, such as the one in this photo, are an inspiration to black youth everywhere. Photo by Renith R on Unsplash

Aiden Bonilla

Based on a true story, King Richard is a heartwarming tale of family and triumph in the face of adversity. It’s the journey of Richard Williams (played by Will Smith), the father of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams. Smith puts his all into the role, no doubt in preparation for award nominations in the near future. It earned four Golden Globe nominations, as well as six Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Actor (Smith).

Director Reinaldo Marcus Green, along with key contributors in the Williams  sisters themselves, weave an intricate narrative surrounding the character of Richard Williams, both in the theatrical and moral sense. Richard is portrayed as a caring family man, who always wants what is best for his kids. He is also stubborn, uncompromising, and dishonest. The movie shows Richard as someone who yes, might have issues, but always makes the right choice in the end, and seeing where the Williams sisters are now, it’s hard to argue with the results. Venus Williams has won seven Grand Slam titles, five Wimbledon championships and four gold medals. Serena Williams might have even achieved an even higher level of success, as she also has four gold medals, along with twenty-seven Grand Slam titles, and at one point spent 319 consecutive weeks as the number one player in the world.

This is seen in the movie when Richard is meeting with premier tennis agents after the sister’s success in the junior tournaments . Richard is worried that the agents only care about his daughters for their talent, and will discard them the second anything goes wrong. Consequently, he pulls Serena and Venus out of the junior circuit, enraging their first coach, Paul Cohen. Richard then fires Cohen, despite him being the only coach to take on the black poorer young sisters in a sport dominated by higher-class white people, as well as training Venus for free for several years. 

By the end of the film, Venus has enrolled in the Bank of the West Classic, a pro tournament in San Jose. She wins her first match before facing Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the favorite to win the competition. Venus leads early until Vicario takes a long bathroom break, breaking the rhythm of the match. Vicario returns and eventually comes back to win the game, leading to Richard having to comfort his daughter in her moment of defeat.

Before the game, Nike had offered the family a sponsorship deal worth three million dollars, but the family decided to decline, hoping that Venus’ performance in the tournament would net them a much higher windfall. Despite her loss, the family is proven right after they sign a twelve million dollar deal with Reebok.

Speaking of dollars, the movie actually flopped out of the gate, only amazing around 33.4 million dollars in total revenue. This can be chalked up to a few different reasons. For one, Warner Bros. had a strange rollout campaign that consisted of the movie being available on HBO Max for almost a month while also being in theaters at the same time. The ongoing pandemic also has severely driven down ticket sales, with people still less inclined to go out. 

The movie might have flopped, but King Richard is a worthy award winner of whatever it is nominated for. It has great cinematography and shots, the tennis matches are exciting and tense, and the characters are complex and interesting. It is definitely worth the watch, especially for sports lovers everywhere.