It seems that in the world of romance, a movie can either come off as intelligent or steamy. It seems that Wimbledon falls into the latter. When compared to the current romantic hit, The Notebook, Wimbledon lacks the chemistry that works so well between Ryan Gosling and Rachael McAdams. Wimbledon also often lacks the energy that is expected of movies in the theaters of today. However, the film makes up for these faults with a solid script and subtle wit.
In many ways, Wimbledon resembles most of the other romances of the present generation. As the movie progresses, boy meets girl. They fall in love. They have to work to stay together. People say dirty words while crass humor solicits a few laughs. In Wimbledon, of course, they play a lot of tennis.
What sets Wimbledon apart from the movies written today is the classic feel it conveys. The backdrop of London lends a European charm that goes well with the interwoven tennis matches from the tournament that gives the movie its name. Paul Bettany lends a dash of class to the romantic lead, Peter Colt. What lends the most to this atmosphere is the mutual respect of the lovers.
Paul Bettany was the perfect choice to play Peter Colt. Colt is an aging tennis player who wants to compete in Wimbledon one last time.
Through a chance encounter, he meets Lizzie Bradbury, the star of women’s tennis. As the film unfolds, Bettany brings a subtle wit to a part that could have been turned to slop in lesser hands. Those who have enjoyed his performances in A Knight’s Tale and Master and Commander will enjoy his seemingly effortless approach to portraying an “aging Joe” in a young man’s sport. (Paul Bettany is only 33, though he’s still ten years older than Kirsten Dunst.)
Kirsten Dunst (Interview with the Vampire, Spider-Man) is Lizzie, Peter Colt’s true love. Lizzie is a toned down version of characters many will remember from movies like Crazy/Beautiful and The Virgin Suicides. She plays the cute, naughty girl that captures the hearts of the men around her. While she seems comfortable in the role of Lizzie, Dunst brings little energy to the screen.
Sam Neill and Jon Favreau are the only other actors American audiences will be quick to recognize. Sam Neill (In the Mouth of Madness, Jurassic Park) plays Lizzie’s overprotective father. Unfortunately, his character is dull and shows little emotional range. Jon Favreau’s (Swingers, Very Bad Things) character, the agent of both Lizzie and Peter Colt, has the same failings. Favreau’s character will get the most laughs from American audiences; he’s the comic relief.
At times, the cinematography of Wimbledon took away from the movie as a whole. A little too much zooming action was added to the tennis matches, so they would seem more exciting. There were also many shots of Bettany’s face as he agonized over decisions. It would have been nice if the camera tricks had been left out; the added intensity won’t convert audiences into tennis fans.
Wimbledon was a good movie, but it won’t be able to compete in America’s theaters. The story is solid, and the actors realistically portray normal people. However, most American moviegoers don’t have the attention span to sit through a movie filled with subtle humor and tennis. Wimbledon fails to make what happens to the lovers seem important. While enjoyable, only tennis fans will find it noteworthy.