by George Wolf
Despite Serena’s stumble at Wimbledon this year, the Williams sisters have been making tennis history for so long, its easy to forget they were once, just like a young Tiger Woods, wide-eyed African American phenoms attracting much curiosity from within a white-dominated sport.
The documentary Venus and Serena follows them both during the 2011 season, mixing that footage with archive video from their youth, as well as interviews with family, tennis personalities, and a curious amount of Chris Rock and Bill Clinton.
Directors Maiken Baird and Michelle Major, in their debut feature, keep things fairly by the numbers, providing a quick overview of the sisters rise to domination, and the ups and downs of the 2011 tour. What can’t be denied is the bond that Venus and Serena, born just 15 months apart, continue to share. Though the film offers few unguarded moments, glimpsing their love of karaoke, or the worry that their closeness could threaten any aspirations of marriage, is truly charming.
Any possible areas of negativity, such as Serena’s famous meltdowns, their father’s domineering ways or the racism they all faced, are briefly touched upon and then swatted away, giving no voice to anyone very far outside the Williams camp. With this type of approach, it might have been better just to focus on the 2011 season in a singular manner, without the biographical portions. As it is, Venus and Serena seems crafted with the approval of the Williams family in mind.
Still, as Venus strives to return to form and Serena continues her assault on the title of Best Ever, Venus and Serena is a perfectly acceptable reminder of their greatness.