|Theatrical Movie Reviews Theatrical|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Friday, 17 September 2004|
In the tradition of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Notting Hill” (though not from the makers of those films), “Wimbledon” is a charming, cheerful and reasonably intelligent romantic comedy featuring a slightly shy Englishman who falls for a brash American woman.
The twist here is that both Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) and Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) are both professional tennis players. Peter, once ranked 11th in the world, is now a lowly 119th. He has been reduced to accepting an offer to be the on-site tennis pro at a club (albeit a very high-end establishment), so he’s surprised to find he’s made it again into the famed Wimbledon tournament. Nobody expects Peter to do well – in fact, his younger brother Carl (James McAvoy) plans to pick up some cash betting against him. Lizzie, on the other hand, is the next hot young thing in the sport – great things are expected of her by both the public and her loving, exacting father (Sam Neill). Peter and Lizzie meet cute, hit it off and embark on an affair. The twist is that the romance gives Peter the jolt he needs to get back on his game, whereas for Lizzie, it really is the distraction her dad fears it will be.
All this is by way of saying the plot isn’t terribly deep, but thanks to a really winning, nimble performance by Bettany, loads of charm and directness from Dunst and a clever, deft script by Adam Brooks and Jennifer Flackett & Mark Levin, it is a lot of fun. Director Richard Loncraine actually stages the tennis matches so that even moviegoers who normally care nothing of the sport get wrapped up in the individual games and their strategies. You know a sports movie is working when the advice the players give each other feels like it’s actually furthering the plot, rather than sounding like so much meaningless jargon. The subplot involving Peter’s mildly dysfunctional, moderately eccentric family is pleasantly droll, played expertly by Eleanor Bron and Bernard Hill as his warring parents, and Jon Favreau is blithely on the money as Peter’s once and future agent.
Well-chosen songs on the soundtrack include “Ghostwriter” performed by RJD2, “What To Do” performed by OK Go, “Stay Don’t Go” performed by Spoon, “This Year’s Love” performed by David Gray, “Caught in a Moment” and “Sometimes” performed by Sugababes, “Hypnotic” performed by Craig Armstrong, “Mobile” performed by Avril Lavigne and the very catchy “But I Feel Good” from Groove Armada. The sound is subtly excellent, with discrete crowd effects that place us within the stadium and send the tennis balls traveling sonically as well as visually across the screen.
“Wimbledon” is pretty frothy, but it fulfills its mission as a romantic comedy – it’s romantic, it’s funny, we like the characters separately and together, it moves quickly and it’s smart. What’s not to like?