Wimbledon Apparently Isn’t So Bad

Director: Richard Loncraine
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau & Eleanor Bron

What could seem very intriguing about a movie that involves tennis? Moreover, what in the world is believable about a film that features Kirsten Dunst as the number- one women’s player in the world? I originally anticipated that Wimbledon would serve up all the cheesy clichés of another typical romantic comedy with possibly a slight sprinkle of tennis on top. That being said, I at least hoped that the storyline would provide some laughs along the way to compensate for the terrible cinematic piece that I anticipated. “It’s okay though,” I thought to myself. I had wanted to write a bad review this week after giving Garden State such positive remarks last week.

I was sure Wimbledon would be just the dumb blonde thriller I was looking for to give an awfully dreadful review. Much to my surprise, however, Wimbledon was not all that I had originally anticipated.

Ranked 119th in the world of professional tennis, Peter Colt, played by British actor Paul Bettany, is thirty-one and fading fast.

As a doormat for the younger, faster, more chic players on the circuit, Peter, who was once ranked 11th in the world, finds himself nearing the end of his not-so-illustrious pro tennis career. But much to his own surprise and to the shock of many others – including his brother who wagers bets against him with a local bookie – Peter somehow manages to score himself a wild-card bid to play at Wimbledon. Meanwhile, the hot, young American phenomenon Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) is making a racket (no pun intended) around the world of tennis.

On the court, Lizzie is a mirror image of Serena Williams as she proves to be in top form and focused on taking home the championship. When she is not manhandling her weaker opponents, Lizzie is more like Anna Kournikova off the court: sexy, beautiful, and always ready to party – much to the dismay of her pampering and controlling father/coach.

As Peter arrives at the Dorchester hotel at the start of the Wimbledon festivities, he is accidentally given the keys to Lizzie’s magnificent suite that seems fit for the queen of England herself. Baffled by the luck of being assigned such an extravagant room, Peter stumbles in to discover his luck getting even better when he finds Lizzie nude in the shower. After another chance encounter, this time with clothes on, the two tennis opposites immediately hit it off. Peter begins to find in Lizzie the encouraging lift he needs to turn his game and his life around. As he begins to win matches that he should be losing, Peter beats the odds and gains the support of his family, his friends, and his countrymen. Off the court, the couple is falling in love and finding ways to have romantic meetings and getaways, despite the hounding paparazzi and watchful eye of Lizzie’s father.

While Lizzie and Peter look great together and seemingly make the ideal sports super-couple, I find it very hard to believe that a player of her caliber has the time of day to sacrifice to a lowly guy like Peter. Although it is not the fault of Dunst- I will say she does do a pretty decent job in this role- the character of Lizzie Bradbury is so one-dimensional and underdeveloped that the spectator never seems to figure out why she is with him or what she truly wants- Peter or a championship.

Luckily, the film does offer some great supporting material to make it a tolerable film overall. During the tennis scenes, director Richard Loncraine presents a beautiful display of cinematography through an array of unique shot sequences. As I recently found out, the tennis scenes were all filmed at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club during the 2003 Wimbledon Championships, giving the film a very authentic look and feel. In addition, former Wimbledon champ Pat Cash was employed to choreograph the actual tennis match scenes, making sure almost every forehand and backhand are right on the money.

In spite of the mushy love scenes and the all-too-familiar elements of the cheesy romantic comedy, Wimbledon does make for an entertaining moviegoing experience. The film offers many moments of quality comic relief, and if you are a huge sap, even some moments to cry at. Gentlemen, while I would not recommend the film as one to go see on a Friday night with your buddies, you may want to consider it as a nice little date movie.

Come on, I know that no one is too manly to enjoy a good chick flick once in a while with a special lady. And ladies, my guess is that nine out of ten of you will probably enjoy this film on one level or another. If not, then maybe I am just sappier than most girls are. And that, my friends, is just sad.*** Three-star rating on the G-Scale (out of a possible five)