Directed by Richard Loncraine
2004, rated PG-13
Winter is the perfect time for a sunshiny, feel-good movie. The light-hearted humor will clear the dreary clouds away, and leave you feeling better about life in general. What better place to look for such a movie than the genre of Romance? Romance movies, otherwise known as chick-flicks, are a sure-fire way boost your mood and help you rise above the winter woes. These films are often characterized by their weak plot and mediocre acting, but adorably cute characters that you just can’t help falling in love with. They mainly appeal to women, and thus also require a lovable male protagonist. Such is the case with Richard Loncraine’s tennis-love flick Wimbledon, starring the wonderful epitome of a good English bloke, Paul Bettany (A Knight’s Tale, A Beautiful Mind).
Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) is a swiftly-falling, British has-been in the world of tennis. Once ranked 11th in the world, as he constantly likes to remind people, he has now fallen from grace, and has decided to end his career with one last tournament at the tennis championship of Wimbledon. His direct opposite is the spunky, American rising-star Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), known for her ruthlessness on, and off, the court. Their two separate worlds collide in a chance meeting, throwing these two extremes together. What starts as a little “unwinding” before a match quickly shoots into a full-fledged romance, staunchly unapproved by Lizzie’s father. As the tournament continues, however, and tensions rise, the ironic relationship develops new obstacles that must be overcome in order for the pair to survive as a couple.
The plot, of course, is not at all ponderous, nor does it try to be. Wimbledon isn’t trying to make its audience think, it’s trying to make its audience love, or at least like. As such, everything is kept nice and simple, with the occasional eye candy for the viewers. There is no complicated, mind-boggling, cinematographic feats performed here, but there are some nice touches that make the film enjoyable and entertaining. Some close-ups and volleying between tennis matches keeps the audience’s attention, and the occasional freeze-frame with voice-over gives insight to the characters’ thoughts and makes them all the more loveable.
Bettany is excellent as humble, romantic Colt, turning on the charm full-blast. His adorable looks of adoration for Lizzie, together with his pain-filled expressions of exhaustion make him wonderful to watch, and his character easy to love. Dunst, on the other hand, seems determined to make her character the true opposite of Bettany’s. Her vapid stare and plastic expressions make her look more like a Barbie doll prancing across the screen in her little tennis skirt than anything else. Even when she’s angry, you can’t quite believe it, and her violent little mood swings and temper tantrums make her seem like a petulant child, and a little too young for the more mature moods of Bettany. Bettany’s brilliance, however, makes up for Dunst’s dullness, and his performance is really what carries the film.
Obviously not a film for deep thinkers, Wimbledon is still an enjoyable flick for a relaxing winter evening. This film is great for romance lovers, or anyone else who needs a little break from heavy plotlines. Love & Basketball this is not—but tennis is almost as good.