When I hear ‘From the makers of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill’ in a preview for an upcoming movie, I expect to see Hugh Grant falling clumsily in love with an American siren in another fantastic British romantic comedy. Wimbledon uses the same formula, but masterfully substitutes Paul Bettany for Grant, making him fall in love with Kirsten Dunst against the backdrop of the English tennis championship. While the romance falls prey to underdevelopment, the action on the court and Bettany”s relationships with his friends and family balances out a formulaic plot line.
British tennis player Peter Colt (Bettany) is on a losing streak in his professional and personal life until he gains a wild card entry to Wimbledon and a chance to exit the tennis circuit on a positive note. Upon check-in at the Dorchester Hotel, Colt meets top seeded American tennis player, Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), when he is accidentally given the key to her room. The two depart on a whirlwind romance with late nights, beer, and sex on the menu. Colt finds inspiration on the court through his romance with Lizzie, as passionate nights lead the down-and-out player to turn his luck around. While Peter works his way through the rounds of Wimbledon, upsetting one top seeded player after another, Lizzie”s overbearing father (Sam Neill) tries to halt the romance for fear that it is distracting his daughter from her own goal of winning Wimbledon.
While Bettany and Dunst have chemistry on the screen, Director Richard Loncraine rushes the romantic story line, pushing Peter and Lizzie together quickly and not investing enough time in the relationship. This lack of development translates into awkwardness when the romance enters into the cutesy banter that most romantic comedies try to perfect. The actors” attractiveness and chemistry carry the romance through some of these rocky moments, but the movie really takes off on the tennis court, making Wimbledon an appropriate name for this film.
With the help of Australian tennis player Pat Cash, the tennis scenes are well choreographed and acted, overcoming the predictable (and unrealistic) storyline. Visually and dramatically, the scenes work to conjure up the loneliness of a player fighting to win a game, not against his opponent but against himself. Interior monologues, shots of the roaring crowd, and resounding music allow us to feel the intensity of playing in a tournament like Wimbledon. Although the romance falls short of my expectations, Wimbledon comes out on top through the development of other relationships and a winning portrayal of professional tennis.
Archived article by Kelsey Nichols
Red Letter DAZE Staff Writer