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Ricky’s “King Richard” review: Will Smith getting Oscar buzz, but Williams sisters actresses also star

Will Smith is nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Richard Williams.

By Ricky Dimon

Sports movies generally don’t get much Academy Awards hype, but anything is possible for the Williams sisters.

It helps that Will Smith delivered an Oscar-worthy performance as Richard Williams, the famous father of Venus and Serena. All in all, “King Richard” is a major player during this awards season.

In fact, it is already racking up the accolades. At the Golden Globes Smith won Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama, while the film was also nominated in the categories of Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture (Aunjanue Ellis as Oracene Price), and Best Original Song (“Be Alive” by Beyonce). “King Richard” has six Academy Award nominations in advance of the March 27 festivities, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Smith), and Best Supporting Actress (Ellis). Smith is a considerable favorite to win Best Actor according to the odds.

Is “King Richard” the best tennis movie ever? It’s possible. Smith has a lot to do with that; he really was awesome as Richard. But what makes the film stand out–especially for true tennis fans–is the quality of the tennis scenes. The young actresses who play the Williams sisters (Saniyya Sidney as Venus; Demi Singleton as Serena) are naturals on the court despite not being tennis players.

“I had never played tennis before,” Demi said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Neither of us had played tennis before. That was a very new sport for us. Learning to play in the amount of time we had was not easy, especially playing two of the greatest athletes of all time. That made it a bit more difficult. I feel like if we were just learning to play like Saniyya and Demi, rather than Venus and Serena, it would’ve been a bit easier.”

They sure made it look easy, even though it sounds impossible.

“Borg vs McEnroe” and “Battle of the Sexes” are decent enough movies in the last five years, but the tennis scenes leave a lot to be desired. Maybe the filmmakers were smart to keep those to a minimum, as there is more of an off-court focus in the Borg-McEnroe and Billie Jean King vs Bobby Riggs films. Sure there is also a lot of off-court character development in “King Richard,” of course, but it is balanced well with the tennis.

Overall, it’s a great movie that should not be missed. In fact, it is the only one that has inspired me to actually go to a theater during Covid-19 times. But if you haven’t seen it yet, definitely check it out at home before the Oscars!

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.