Film Round-Up: King Richard, Spencer and The Last Duel
Will Smith is Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena, who works hard to try and make sure his young daughters become the best in the world at tennis. Having lived on the back of a football field for most of my life, I’ve seen plenty of pushy parents living their dreams through the 10-year-olds who just want to have fun on a Sunday morning. This is the film for them! While Richard is not as bad as some parents, as the film points out at the tennis clubs he attends, he definitely exerts a lot of control and the film explores this and if it’s a good thing. It’s all rooted in Will Smith’s performance. Handled badly, Richard is a very unlikable character who you’d become convinced is trying to become the star of the show rather than his talented daughters. But Smith is a fantastic actor and even through his most unlikable moments, you can see it’s all done from a good place. It’s this what makes the film great. It does run long, almost two and a half hours long for bloody hell’s sake, but this is a great tale of pushy parenthood and trying to do right by your kids.
Princess Diana struggles under the weight of being part of the Royal Family. A few years ago, there was a Diana film starring Naomi Watts, a person you haven’t seen in ages because she was in this Diana film. It was incredibly melodramatic and felt like a better fit for a Channel 5 original than something which wanted to make a splash in the awards season. This goes in the opposite direction and is very artistic and full of meaning and imagery. I could definitely write a 5,000 essay on what the director meant. It’d be easy though as it smacks you on the nose with its imagery like the constant references to Anne Boleyn. Then you have an awful cacophony of violins as the soundtrack which yes, is meant to represent the chaos inside Diana’s head. But it made me reach for the paracetamol. And then you have Kristen Stewart’s woefully misguided performance which has so much whispering you’d think this was the world’s first ASMR and then she shakes her shoulders a lot. I feel like she’s working very hard but has been sent in the wrong direction by a director that really thinks he’s doing something with this. Instead, we get another terrible Diana movie.
The Last Duel
Sir Jean fights his old friend Jacques in trial by combat over allegations that the former’s wife was raped. This is the film that made Ridley Scott have a massive rant because this completely flopped at the box office and he took that as an insult. I understand why he was so bitter though because this is an excellent film that deserved to find an audience. It is told in Rashomon style as the three main characters have their points of view told before the final duel at the end of the film. I love this style as it’s always interesting to see the slight changes which inform the characters which is especially key here with the rape scene, which is told differently depending on which character’s perspective it is in order to create doubt within the audience. That by the way is a ballsy move in the current climate. You have excellent performances throughout, though Jodie Comer shines most of all, and the Medieval environment is not one often explored in film. It’s well worth seeking out, if only to stop Ridley Scott moaning.