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"Venus and Serena": A Doc on Sibling Rivalry of the Most Public Sort 

Wednesday, May 29 2013

Venus and Serena Early in the documentary Venus and Serena, we're informed that filmmakers Maiken Baird and Michelle Major followed the tennis-famous Williams sisters through their rocky 2011 season. Just as much time is devoted to their lives and careers up to then, however, and the finished film focuses more on the perpetually second-billed younger sister Serena. This is partially due to Venus's health problems (though Serena herself struggles with a pulmonary embolism, way too much footage of which is shown), but probably also because Serena's story is more interesting, being the younger sister who strove for greatness just because it's what her older sister was doing. They were pushed to that greatness by their father, Richard, the kind of guy who gives all his sons names that also start with the letter "R" — seriously, who does that? — and while his daughters don't lack for quirks, they come across as fairly stable for being so pressured so young. The film's talking heads are surprisingly diverse, including Bill Clinton, Chris Rock, Anna Wintour, New Journalism figurehead Gay Talese, and John McEnroe, who serves as a Crankiness Guru to Serena. Helpfully, Venus and Serena provides captions so you'll know which of the sisters is speaking at any given time — though if it's karaoke, it must be Serena.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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