We have officially turned the calendar page into September, which means Hollywood is starting to look ahead to the Oscar season. Yes, blockbusters like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings are dominating the box office (this summer was unusual for movie releases), but the back-to-back Venice and Telluride festivals are starting to paint a picture for the pending awards races, and it sounds like Will Smith (and maybe Beyonce) will find themselves in the Oscar conversation for the tennis drama King Richard.
Essentially telling the true story of Venus and Serena Williams through the eyes of their father, Richard Williams (Will Smith), King Richard started to play for film critics and some film festival patrons and was met with immediate praise. It’s being described as a crowd pleaser, with Smith getting singled out for possible inclusion in the Best Actor Oscar discussion.
In the film, Smith plays a dedicated father coaching his tennis prodigy daughters who meets a wall of resistance as he tries to get them noticed in the elite community that surrounds the sport. The emotional struggle in the film worked very well on The Hollywood Reporter’s awards ace, Scott Feinberg, who shared:
And film journalist reaches back to The Pursuit of Happyness, a movie that earned Smith his second Oscar nomination, to put the actor’s performance in King Richard into context.
Feel-good sports stories always have the power to transport an audience, especially when they are based on fact. Gavin O’Connor’s hockey drama Miracle comes to mind, as does Sandra Bullock’s The Blind Side, which earned her the Oscar. There’s a good chance that Will Smith rides the wave of positivity for King Richard all the way to the Oscar stage. And if he does, he could bring Beyonce with him. It was reported earlier that the pop icon will have a new song titled “Be Alive” that plays over the end of the film, which immediately had many speculating that the potential EGOT recipient could nab that Oscar this season. It’s very early in the process, but then again she is Beyonce.
King Richard won’t be in theaters and on HBO Max until November 19, so we have a little bit longer to wait. But this early response is very encouraging, and has prompted us to move the movie to the top of our Must See list as we steer into the awards season. In addition to the praise being heaped on Will Smith, there’s an equal amount being given to both Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton for their portrayals of young Venus and Serena, respectively. They could be a force in the industry for years to come.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.