By Noah Tang
The story of “King Richard” Williams has finally been told on the big screen, and it does not disappoint. Will Smith stars as Richard, the man who raised the two tennis stars that are the Williams sisters. Of course, he was much more than just that. Although Venus and Serena might be the most well-known sisters from that family, their three other siblings have accomplished much as well. Each of them can credit their father for providing them with a strong foundation for life.
For his part, Richard Williams grew up during the segregation era and lacked a supportive father. Those experiences caused him to make raising his five daughters well his priority. Along with his wife Brandy, Richard encouraged his daughters to excel at whatever activities they were engaged in. He wanted them to stay off the streets, to make something of themselves and to show the world that African Americans were just as capable of greatness as anyone else. “This world ain’t never had no respect for Richard Williams, but they gonna respect y’all,” he tells the girls.
To support his family, Richard works as a security guard during the night shift. When he gets off work, however, he continually trains Venus and Serena at their local tennis court. Despite bad weather and harassment from local gangs, Richard consistently brings his daughters to play tennis. He also tirelessly seeks out a coach willing to provide free instruction. On the way to a practice facility, Richard tells Venus and Serena a piece of advice his mother once gave him: “Son, the most strongest, the most powerful, the most dangerous creature on this whole Earth is a woman who knows how to think.”
I appreciate how this movie depicted Richard. Despite being economically disadvantaged, he made the best out of what life had given him. He worked hard to make an honest living and support his family. He taught his daughters to do the same, and in both school and sports, their hard work allowed them to better themselves. He instilled in them a strong sense of integrity and dignity, teaching them to respect themselves.
Richard also protected his girls from all manner of threats, whether it be harassment from local boys or the self-destructive pressure of becoming a child star. He had the courage to resist coaches pushing him to set the girls on the conventional path to becoming professional players. Seeking to protect them from burnout and potential moral failure, he states that “they need to just do what they’re doing. They need to just be kids.”
At the same time, the movie shows Richard’s faults. His single-minded pursuit of the girls’ greatness sometimes blinded him to reality. He could be stubborn, egotistical and occasionally overprotective. He sometimes failed to appreciate the sacrifices his wife made for their family.
Richard also needed reminding that his goals were not necessarily the same as his girls’ and that he needed to let them make their own decisions. In one scene, Brandy helps to set him straight. After being confronted with these truths, Richard eventually changes his course and allows Venus a measure of self-determination.
Speaking of Brandy Williams, she was indispensable to the family. While she supported them financially by working as a nurse, she also tirelessly supported Richard, Venus and Serena, even teaching the girls some tennis herself.
All in all, I enjoyed this movie for its positive and inspiring message. “King Richard” shows how the faithfulness and hard work of ordinary people can have wonderful results. It also depicts the strength of the nuclear family and the positive effect that a father can have on his children—both of which are messages in short supply from Hollywood these days. While the film does have some language and other content concerns, its positive aspects more than make up for them.
“King Richard” is now streaming on HBO Max.
Noah Tang is a super-senior Business Management major and a writer for Cedars. He likes to spend time with friends, study theology, and watch movies.