King Richard tells the story of Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams. He planned to raise tennis champions – wrote out the whole thing – before his daughters were even born. All the world knows how his plan worked. This film takes you into the story in the beginning, up to the first pro match Venus played at 14. It’s streaming on HBO Max.
King Richard, played excellently by Will Smith, was an overbearing, stubborn man who insisted he knew what was best for his daughters. Things had to be done his way or not at all. He managed to get professional coaching for his daughters, then told the coaches how to do their jobs.
Richard’s wife and mother of their five daughters, Oracene ‘Brandy’ Williams, played with strength and will by Aunjanue Ellis, stood up to him when needed. Especially when he needed reminding that she also coached and trained the girls and knew how to improve their game.
Venus, the eldest, was played by Saniyya Sidney. Demi Singleton played Serena. These two young actors did a good job looking like great tennis players. Both showed the drive and determination to achieve greatness that their father instilled in them.
This is not a documentary, it’s a biopic. Certain details were changed to make Richard a more sympathetic person than the autocrat he was in real life. But the film had the blessing of the family. Venus and Serena visited the set and spoke with the actors playing them. They are among the producers of the film.
Some of what Richard Williams did with his daughters was cringe-worthy and some was inspiring. Now both women are in their 40s and winners many times over. Perhaps it’s time to lean into the inspiring side of their father’s story. That’s what the film is about.