Film review: ‘Venus and Serena’

Serena and Venus Williams are the subjects of the doc called (of course) "Venus and Serena" Caption: Getty Images
Serena and Venus Williams are the subjects of the doc called (of course) “Venus and Serena”
Caption: Getty Images

‘Venus and Serena’
Directors: Maiken Baird and Michelle Major
Genre: Documentary
Rating: PG-13
2 (out of 5) Globes

The documentary profile “Venus and Serena” was likely pitched as boasting unprecedented access to the tennis stars — as though that was all a film required to be minimally useful. It’s not clear whether the Williamses are any more upfront about themselves than they have been in untold interviews. It’s not even apparent if the end product, heading for theatrical distribution and VOD, is any more comprehensive than the untold television profiles. This is pure Wikipedia documentary filmmaking, plowing through Venus and Serena’s conjoined story, doing some light delving into certain issues and leaving fans knowing only slightly more than they did before.

As you can learn elsewhere, the Williams sisters were tennis prodigies coached into superhuman strength by an absurdly dedicated, deeply protective father Richard. Venus was the first to attract major attention, going pro at 14. It was then discovered that Serena, one year younger, was about as legendary. Richard is an imposing and unknowable character, as cagey as he is quick to overly-defend his daughters. (His cursing-out of an overly-pesky journalist when Venus was a 14 year old braggart is enjoyably questionable.) He remains a mystery, as do his daughters, whose unusual childhood may have produced, as with so many talented kids thrust into the limelight at an early age, psychological trauma. Or it might not have. There’s no way from watching “Venus and Serena,” which fails to get its subjects to open up much beyond the superficial, whether to know for sure.

Even if one doesn’t want to delve into their psyches, there’s always plenty of other topics. The Williamses have long been the subject of unusual treatment, by the media and otherwise, over issues of class, race and gender. “Venus and Serena” goes somewhat into that: Serena’s issues with temper, relatively minor compared to other players, is shown to be exaggerated by the media and the tennis world alike. Even as it critiques this treatment, the film adds to it, showing arguments and tiffs seemingly filmed on the fly, as though these altercations — light and often TMI — weren’t the norm among highly stressed athlete celebrities. As with a lot of largely expository doc profiles, “Venus and Serena” will be useful largely to those who know very little about the sisters, and to those who know almost everything but are hungry for a few random trivia scraps. It would take a more fearless documentarian to give you something more.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor reveals new tech hub Digital.NYC

Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed Digital.NYC on Wednesday, a new online platform aimed at connecting all things tech in New York City. The public-private partnership…

Local

Falling debris hits two men in Times Square

Two men were taken to the hospital Wednesday morning after being hit by falling debris from 110 feet above Times Square. Nancy Greco from the…

Local

Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough accused of misusing campaign…

Queens Assemblyman William Scarborough has been indicted on state and federal charges for allegedly withdrawing campaign funds as cash for personal use. Scarborough, a Democrat…

News

U.S. Secret Service director Pierson resigns under fire

U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson resigned under fire on Wednesday after a series of security lapses came to light.

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, Oct. 1: 'Criminal Minds,'…

The "Criminal Minds" team adds some supernatural assistance, as the "Ghost Whisperer" herself, Jennifer Love Hewitt, joins the show. She's playing an FBI agent, but you never know when someone…

Music

See the most popular Pandora station in your…

Who knew Bachata music was so popular?

The Word

The Word: Twilight just won't die

You thought our "Twilight" days were behind us, didn't you? Well think again. Series creator Stephenie Meyer (who would rather you not ask about "Twilight"…

Going Out

Which NYC restaurant lost its three-star Michelin rating?

A record 73 restaurants in New York City collected coveted Michelin stars on Tuesday as a mix of trendy spots and fine-dining stalwarts underscored the…

NFL

John Conner back with Jets for second stint

He'll be back. It's "Terminator 2" for the Jets, who brought back John Conner to the team on Tuesday after placing fullback Tommy Bohanon on…

NFL

Fantasy football: Ben Tate to break out, Larry…

Fantasy football: Ben Tate to break out, Larry Donnell will stay solid

NFL

Source: Drafting Geno Smith was '100 percent' John…

It might have been a “Jets decision” as general manager John Idzik likes to say, but it wasn't a unanimous decision to draft Geno Smith last year.

MLB

Mets 2014 report card

The Mets wrapped up their eight straight season without a playoff appearance last weekend. Needless to say, they fell a bit short of general manager…

Style

Saint Laurent

Our review of the Saint Laurent Spring '15 show at Paris Fashion Week.

Style

Céline: Paris Fashion Week Spring 2015

Our review of the Celine Spring '15 show during Paris Fashion Week.

Style

Chloé: Paris Fashion Week Spring 2015

Our review of the Chloe Spring 2015 show from Pairs Fashion Week.

Parenting

What to eat if you're trying to get…

The guru who helped Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet and other celebrities get pregnant shares her tips.