King Richard depicts a father trying to protect his kids from the streets. In a manner, he plans a “dream” for his daughters, Venus and Serena William. He makes sure that the capitalistic white society doesn’t blemish the sacred dream. While raising tennis champions, King Richard, aka Richard Williams, not only fights the real world but also his hidden horrors caused by a racist environment. Many called him arrogant for his strict beliefs and methods, but only a few saw the terror that caused it.
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green, the biographical film, King Richard follows the real-life journey of Richard Williams. The father hustled and sacrificed everything to turn his daughters into world tennis champions. Success is often the tip of the iceberg, and below it are years of hard work, failure, and rejection. Zach Baylin’s screenplay tries to trace down those conflicts that forged the world’s most famous tennis players, Venus and Serena Williams.
The Planned Dream
Richard’s dream was to transform Venus and Serena from prodigies to pro tennis champions. Well, he had his reasons. While growing up in Cedar Grove, Louisiana, all Richard dealt with was racism and violence. There wasn’t any scope for fun, entertainment, or sports in such a society and environment. In simple words, he spent his lifetime in terror. If it wasn’t the Ku Klux Klan, then it would be the police or the white boys. He was constantly fighting, and hence, as a parent, he decided to give his daughters a more peaceful and secure life. Therefore, Richard dreamt of raising champions.
But he was arrogant about his dream too. The statement isn’t derogatory. When you are all alone in the world, fighting against all odds, then arrogance isn’t a flaw; it is a protective shield. Richard told his daughters that their daddy never protected him. The world had no respect for Richard Williams, and hence he made sure that they respected his daughters. The battle against the whole wide world made Richard arrogant.
To realize the dream, Richard’s wife, Oracene “Brandy” Price, nursed day and night, and Richard coached the girls during the daytime while working as a security guard at night. And he didn’t mind the hustle or the sacrifice. He knew that clawing his way out of Compton, California, towards a brighter future would be tough on his nails.
The Flaw of Being an Overprotective Father
As human beings, we try to fill the gaps in our life, intentionally or unintentionally. Richard had an absent father. A father who didn’t care. Hence, he made sure that he didn’t turn up like his father.
To explain the layer better, Zach Baylin introduced a scene to explore the character’s background. Often, past incidents give rise to a character’s emotional and psychological traits. Before the Bank of the West tournament, Richard told Venus that black folks weren’t allowed to touch white people back in Shreveport when he was a little kid. His father handed him some money to pay a white man, and accidentally, he touched his hand. The white man and his friends started hitting Richard, and his father, instead of protecting him, ran off.
To explain the layer better, Zach Baylin introduced a scene to explore the character’s background. Often, the past incidents give rise to a character’s emotional and psychological traits. Before the Bank of the West tournament, Richard told Venus that black folks weren’t allowed to touch white people back in Shreveport when he was a little kid. His father handed him some money to pay to a white man, and accidentally he brushed his hand. The white man and his friends started hitting Richard and his father, instead of protecting him, ran off.
The Issue with Junior Tennis Tournament
Richard didn’t want Venus and Serena to play the Junior Circuits. He believed that the capitalist approach of reaping the benefits of prodigies would burn out his kids before they could even fulfill their passion. Well, it’s not a new thing, and often child prodigies end up on drugs and in despair because they have no goal left to explore.
He made sure that all five daughters focused on their education instead of early success. Richard didn’t allow Venus and Serena to play the Juniors because, first of all, the game wouldn’t have helped them in the bigger picture. Secondly, they would have compromised with their education. When an interviewer called him selfish and arrogant for his strict methodology, Richard said Venus could speak four languages and asked how many he could speak?
In André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name, a line explains that we rip so much of ourselves to get things early that we are left with nothing new to offer by the time we are thirty. And that’s a tragedy. Richard told an interviewer that education helps you explore the world through different lenses. Or else, you are just yearning for retirement.
The Fear Behind the Arrogance
King Richard explained Williams’s fear through a scene. Rick Macci’s famed Junior Championship player, Jennifer Capriati, an 18-year-old girl, was arrested for drug possession. In Compton, Richard had seen enough kids getting addicted to drugs, and hence he made a stand against Rick Macci’s decision. He tried to stop Venus from playing in the Bank of the West tournament. He didn’t want Venus or Serena to burn out before they turn 18 and end up like some crackhead.
Richard believed that his dream plan was perfect. But there isn’t any plan in the world that is perfect. His belief in his magnum opus made him egotistical. Though he was protecting his kids, he harbored a fear that his plan would fail. At first, he just didn’t want Venus and Serena to play juniors, but the Bank of the West tournament was Venus’ chance to become a pro tennis player. Richard found another reason, through the case of Jennifer Capriati, to stop Venus from competing. His wife, Brandy, pointed out that Richard was afraid that the world might see flaws in his perfect plan.
Nevertheless, in his ego, Richard didn’t bother to ask Venus whether she wanted to play or not. The whole sequence became the point of transformation in Richard’s character. He accepted his flaws and tried to become a better father. Venus showed her willingness to play in the Bank of the West tournament as a pro tennis player. Her decision led to the ending of the film.
‘King Richard’ Ending
During the Oakland Bank of the West tournament, a 14-year-old Venus Williams played her second-round match against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. Hailing from Spain, Arantxa was a three-time Grand Slam champion at that time. Venus’ fluent game terrified Arantxa. She used a trick and iced Venus during the second set and went to the bathroom for 9 minutes. Venus got distracted, and Arantxa used it against her.
Richard was able to predict that Arantxa had caught Venus off guard, and thus, he didn’t push Venus further. He silently walked and sat in the audience, enjoying the game while it lasted. After Venus lost the game, Richard told her that she should respect herself for taking on Goliath and startling Arantxa for two hours. Venus walked out of the locker room like a champion, holding her own bag. Venus, friends, and family cheered for her, which made Richard proud enough.
Richard knew that Venus was going to be the number one tennis player in the world. But for Serena, he had a plan too. He could see Serena’s uneasiness about living under Venus’s shadow and hence told her that she would be the greatest of all time. She was a fighter, and he could feel the magic inside her.
Venus, at the age of 41, has won Wimbledon five times. Serena Williams, at 40, is a 23-time Grand Slam champion and is considered the greatest player in the history of sports. Just like Richard predicted.
King Richard is a 2021 biographical sports drama film directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. It follows the life of Richard Williams, portrayed by Will Smith.