King Richard’s heart is bigger than mine | 25YL


There was a time when inspirational sports films carried the stigma that the western or the musical had. The tropes were endlessly parodied and say King Richard is at the level of Radio would be inappropriate. If the Documentary Tiger Woods didn’t come out, I wouldn’t question the sentimentality of the film. Thankfully, Richard Williams’ portrayal isn’t hero worship. His actions are criticized, but validated to a degree that feels more inflated than subtextual. King Richard is a very family-friendly project in that the family would not want anything negative beyond public perception depicted.

Imagine Tiger Woods releasing a movie about his dad before his mistress’s debacle. The former King Wheaties revered his father in every interview. Always does. With the continued revelation that his father lived through his son’s success vicariously, conceptualizing this film a few years later calls a lot of things into question. I’m not saying Richard Williams did that to his daughters. I sincerely believe in film events. But something seems to be missing. That something doesn’t have to shape Richard Williams in a continually misunderstood light, but it has to do more than validate his decisions moment by moment for easy applause.

A family project

The Williams family on the tennis court

By my admission, my knowledge of the Williams family is minimal. I understand that Serena Williams is one of the most, if not the most, gifted tennis player to ever step onto the court. Being a black woman, entering a white court must have been an unimaginable challenge. I did not know his sister or his father. Now that I do, I commend Richard Williams for his relentless tenacity to improve his daughter’s life. At the same time, he’s not abusive like Mr. Woods. He lets his children be children. Richard refuses offers of millions of dollars for the improvement of everyone’s education. After all, sport can and will be temporary.

Being tough on his kids must have affected them all. I would like to see what that toll was. Two of the film’s producers are Venus and Serena Williams, Richard’s name I couldn’t find attached. This is probably due to the description of how the press covered Richard’s image in the film, they wanted the world to understand their father. I get it, job well done on that front. Still, I’m not a fan of the love letter movie. It’s wonderful to see people as an inspiration, but to be inspired is to see a person, not an icon.

I am truly uplifted when a person’s flaws can become part of their personality, making their strengths nobler. Adversity challenges us. What challenge did the girls face? Every time I see them on camera, they smile and play. We have all been children. There are tons of smiles and games, but there is heartache in between. Living in the ghetto is already a tragedy, but they seem to be falling apart miraculously throughout the film.

Something seems to be missing in the midst of all her joy

Will Smith as Richard Williams, Saniyya Sidney as Serena Williams and Demi Singleton as Serena Williams
The Williams family had a little more fun than me

The only times the girls aren’t laughing are during Will Smith’s Oscar moment. He informs Venus (Saniyya Sidney) in a tearful monologue that every little black girl is watching her for tomorrow’s game. Gee, no pressure dad. First, if this scene really happened, how damaging would it be to a child’s psyche? Obviously, Venus Williams is a tougher person than I could ever be. Even so, relax on the pressure man! I guess that’s Richard’s character flaw, but it’s not his particular flaw that seems extinguished.

Compromise comes with everything. If I ever had to make a film about my father, I would say almost everything, because he is an honorable man who has nothing to hide. Yet there are a few things lurking beneath the surface that I wouldn’t want to reveal to the world because the world wouldn’t understand. I know my trade-off for making a measured image of my dad that would still be incredibly deep and more meaningful than the typical uplifting Saturday morning. The settlement that Serena and Venus have reached is completely understandable. But that takes away all real meaning from the story.

An overly loving love letter

Richard (Will Smith) speaks to his daughter Venus (Saniyya Sidney)
Will Smith wants the public to see those tears

The sentimentality of the tropes reaches a point that makes me roll my eyes. It’s the same thing I’ve seen in uplifting sports movies for years. There’s the moment when a guy bullies our hero, either physically or mentally, and then the hero picks it up. In this film, a newsreel beat, I think, would have sufficed. Pulling a gun seems entirely out of place for Richard’s character (if not the man). Later, there is the moment when the hero makes a dubious decision that ends up paying off later. In this case, it’s a fart joke. Everything feels at the basic level. The family project passes the baton between the Williams and the Smiths. In what order its passage does not matter since the film achieves its precise objective.

King Richard is sentimental but not condescending. Still, it’s wood because of the compromise. Will Smith and his wife Jada are producing the film. He has a level of “well-being” that may pass for greatness to some. I didn’t know if I liked the movie or if I didn’t like it for a few days. I think it was just ok, but could do better. I see his goal, to get us all talking about how amazing Will Smith is in this role, and getting some of us to say that “Richard Williams” is a great guy! Mission accomplished.

The audience I saw him with clapped at the times indicated, then gasped at the rest. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in my chair thinking, “did you all really fall in love with this? Good God, did I become Jay Sherman?


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