Director: Richard Loncraine | 98 minutes | drama, comedy, romance | Actors: Kirsten Dunst, Paul Bettany, Sam Neill, James McAvoy, Bernard Hill, Eleanor Bron, Amanda Walker, Barry Jackson, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Austin Nichols, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Jon Favreau
As can be read clearly on any poster, “Wimbledon” is the new romantic comedy from the makers of “Notting Hill” (1999), “Bridget Jones” (2001) and “Love Actually” (2003). Why not mention this too, these movies were very entertaining. “Wimbledon” is another funny romantic story with a tennis tournament in the background.
Paul Bettany (“A Beautiful Mind” (2001), “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” (2003)) plays the male lead. Maybe it’s his British accent or maybe his puppy eyes, at least he’s perfectly suited for the role of sweet boy. Bettany was mainly concerned with the heavier roles and is new in this “light” genre, but he manages fine. He reminds us of Hugh Grant at times, but this is more due to the accent in combination with the recognizable situations. The girl in the movie is Kirsten Dunst (“Spider-Man” (2002), “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)). Dunst does not disappoint and the couple comes across as really cozy together. There are some smaller roles, including one for Sam Neill as a passionate father of young tennis talent Dunst.
In many romantic comedies, the protagonists do not get along with each other at first and it almost takes a film before they realize that they are meant for each other, this is already clear to the audience much earlier. In Wimbledon, Peter Colt (Bettany) walks into the bathroom of showering Lizzie Bradbury (Dunst) for the first ten minutes and the romance soon follows. Of course there are some setbacks, but at a number of times the romantic storyline is not interesting enough and we fall back on the tennis story.
The sports story is split into two parts, the underdog Peter Colt who was once number eleven in the world but now finds himself the forgotten loser, and the young new talent Lizzie Bradburry. The first of the two is fun and exciting. Even for the people who think tennis is the most boring sport in the world, it is still nicely filmed and you do not have to know the score of the sport to know who you want to win. The protagonists have had four months of training to pretend to be a tennis player. As a tennis player I really have to say this, the posture with every stroke is bad and the playing position even worse. The tennis balls, drawn by a computer, move unnaturally. Perhaps this is very personal because a reviewer sitting next to it turned out not to have noticed any of this.
“Wimbledon” turned out to be a fun comedy with a good cast and a pretty exciting second storyline. As usual within the genre, very predictable, but we gladly forget that when Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst jump into each other’s arms.