Review: 'King Richard' Tells the Story of Venus and Serena Williams' Rise

by JC Alvarez

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday January 4, 2022

Will Smith, Demi Singleton, and Saniyya Sidney in 'King Richard'
Will Smith, Demi Singleton, and Saniyya Sidney in 'King Richard'  (Source:Warner Media)

Behind every great over-achiever is a tale of adversity and a dedication to be the best. Tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams rose to the top of their sport through an intense drive to win, and, above all, set a standard for what it meant to be extraordinary and an inspiration to young women — especially African-American girls. They learned to rise above the static and to expect nothing but the best from themselves from their parents, Brandi and Richard Williams. In the biopic "King Richard," star Will Smith dives into the man and the family, revealing the heart and soul of the Williams Sisters' rise to the top.

Growing up in Compton, CA, Richard Williams (Smith) understood that there were limitations, but if he and his wife, Brandi (Aunjanue Ellis) were going to raise their five daughters to do anything it was to believe that the world was their oyster — they could be the best so long as they set their minds to it. Richard and Brandi, both instilled in their children the drive to excel — to identify what they were good at, and pour every ounce of their being into it to be the best at what they did. Their daughters, Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) were good at tennis.

Richard recognized their gift, and immediately realized the potential in having not one, but two incredible sports figures — both young women, both African American — and what their success would mean to the world of tennis, and beyond. He drew up a business plan, trained the girls late into the evening (most of the time in the dark, in perilous parts of the neighborhood that were riddled with gang violence), and was relentless in his effort to make sure that both Venus and Serena found a coach that would help mold them into the superstars he knew they could become.

"King Richard" parallels Richard Williams' journey with that of his daughters — most specifically Venus, who is the first of the sisters to have played professionally and opened all the doors, paving the way for her sister Serena, who would eventually become one of the most formidable female athletes of all time. Richard and Brandi make all sorts of sacrifices to make Venus and Serena's dreams of going pro happen, but Richard is also determined to force his will and make certain that his children don't miss out on a childhood. When Venus has ambitions of her own, Richard must bow out and concede. Inevitably, Venus and Serena want to emerge on the scene and play professionally.

The greatest lesson of "King Richard" is that the father must decide when to step back and allow his girls to become the women that they are destined to be. Will Smith delivers a touching and well-crafted performance — not the most career defining, but certainly among one of his most compelling and heartfelt. Though his daughters were known all over the world and have become pop culture phenomenons, King Richard was often thought of as an oddity in the sports world, a Svengali that pulled the strings from behind the scenes, and not always with the best interests of his daughters' careers. But this film tells a very different story.

Produced by the Williams Sisters, along with Will Smith (using his own star power to make sure the story remains as authentic as possible), "King Richard" is revelatory and inspiring. It's about what a family does when it believes in and supports everyone to be the best, whether on the court or in life. All hail the kings, and the queens.


"King Richard" is available to purchase digitally on January 4 and available on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD on February 8

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".