KING RICHARD – Review by Susan Granger

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Will Smith has been nominated twice for Oscars. Now his persuasive performance as King Richard should earn him a third nod and, perhaps, first win. Smith plays stubborn, outspoken Richard Williams, the demanding yet loving father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams.

Set in Compton, California, Richard’s story begins as he gathers discarded tennis balls at various local country clubs, storing them in his van. Every day, he drives his young girls to the cracked inner-city public courts, relentlessly drilling them on their strokes before reporting for work as a security guard.

Frequently beaten up by menacing gangs, Richard tries to shield his family from the drive-by shootings that were a daily reality. When he gets unduly frustrated by the girls’ lack of focus, he’s kept in line by his no-nonsense wife Oracene Price (Aunjanue Ellis), who agrees that it’s imperative that the teenagers become well-educated, well-rounded people instead of spoiled, single-minded tennis brats.

Relentlessly finding and firing one coach after another, Richard Williams is a man with a plan – a manifesto – to make Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) into world champions. Yet the closer the girls come to achieving their goals, the more irrational and paranoid Richard becomes.

“You gonna be the greatest of all time,” Richard tells the girls. “You know how I know? Because I planned for it.”

Working from Zach Baylin’s script, director Reinaldo Marcus Green deliberately concentrates on tenacious Richard, moving Venus and Serena to the background, although they went on to win 30 Grand Slam Singles titles between them, plus 14 Doubles titles together.

In a letter to critics, Venus and Serena, credited as executive producers, wrote: “We wanted to make sure that our story was not only told the right way, but that it highlighted the critical role Black fathers play in a family…Will does a fantastic job as our dad – it’s genius.”

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, King Richard aces a sentimental, inspirational 7 – in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.