by Rob DiCristino
Consider, if you will, the following question: What “earns” one an Academy Award? The Hollywood prom has never exactly been a meritocracy, and the annals of cinema are littered with deserving productions that were ignored in favor of whatever more palatable or crowd-pleasing mainstream goop was presented half-heartedly in any given year. They occasionally get it “right,” of course, and they sometimes make up for poor judgment with the “apology Oscar” years later. But, again, how do we account for taste? How do we decide who’s turn it is? How do we decide which studio did just the right amount of promotional work? Who held the best party? Who’s a flash in the pan, and who has real staying power? Which octogenarian thespian has the fewest performances to go? Though bookmakers are already at work predicting whose caucasian male jawline would look best under the stage lights of whichever train station smoker’s lounge the Oscars will be held in next year, the process still lacks a hard, quantifiable formula.
He’s right, of course, eventually convincing country club pro Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn) to take Venus under his wing. That leads to junior competitions and a relocation to Florida, where Hall of Famer Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal) runs a prestigious training academy. At every turn, though, Williams resists the immediate reward of sponsorship deals and tournament purses, instead choosing to guard his daughters against would-be predators like talent agent Will Hodges (Dylan McDermott) and even removing Venus from amateur competition until he decides she’s ready to turn pro. Williams puts family and education first, he insists, but it soon becomes clear to his wife (Aunjanue Ellis as Brandi) that he’s letting his personal demons poison his judgment, that the axes he’s grinding against racism and class disparity are destroying his daughters’ opportunity for the very greatness he insists they are destined to achieve. Is this really about Venus and Serena, or is their father manipulating them for his own purposes?
King Richard hits theaters on November 19th.