A guy, a brassy girl and a tennis courtYou’ve got to love a romantic comedy that matches a fumbling, shy British guy and a brassy, know-it-all American gal. There’s an undeniably charming, albeit predictable, chemistry in that pairing, and there have been a number of hits to prove it (often starring Hugh Grant), such as “Notting Hill” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”
“Wimbledon” is no exception to that formula’s feel-good magic. What’s different about it is that it’s set at the world’s most famous tennis championship.
The leads make for a very appealing couple. Peter Colt (played by Paul Bettany) is a downsliding British tennis pro, once ranked No. 11 in the world, who is given a chance to play at the Wimbledon tournament in a wild-card bid just before he retires to a life of coaching middle-aged women at an upscale club.
A chance encounter and eventual romance with Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), a rising American starlet of the tennis world and a go-getter type, sparks a hunger in Peter to play better. However, Lizzie’s overprotective father (Sam Neill) perceives Peter as a threat and tries, unsuccessfully, to separate the two of them.
Newly inspired, Peter starts to win. But when the relationship blossoms further, Lizzie falters. Peter owes his winning streak to Lizzie, while Lizzie bitterly attributes her stumbling to him.
Some tennis players have well-earned reputations for being arrogant and hot-tempered, such as John McEnroe (who makes a cameo appearance in the movie as a tournament commentator, along with former women’s tennis pro Chris Everet).
But Peter Colt is a perfect gentleman, always apologetic, courteous and humble. Perhaps, the movie suggests, that’s why he has been on such a losing streak.
The movie also delves into athletes’ fabled belief in “jinxes” before a game, the psychology of tennis players and the question of what it means to be a winner.
A fair amount of the movie is dedicated to Peter’s tennis, which looks so realistic that it’s not surprising to find that the movie was filmed during the actual 2003 Wilmbedon tournament.
The crowd’s reactions, those intense moments just before a serve and the overall suspense of the games are exhilarating and heart-pounding.
After seeing this movie, I was left with two urges: to learn tennis and to get to know Paul Bettany better. Bettany is very convincing as a tennis player, and equally believable as a fumbling warm-hearted Brit, but not in an overtly clumsy manner like Hugh Grant.
Bettany, mostly known for playing memorable supporting roles to Russell Crowe (in “A Beautiful Mind” and “Master and Commander”), proves to be a true champ in his role as a resurrected hero.
The chemistry between him and Dunst is delightful, but Dunst herself, with her character’s confusion over whether she wants to win or wants to admit her feelings to Peter, doesn’t win much sympathy.
Also, the ending was rather dragged out, and was rather too good to be true. But then, it’s a romantic comedy.
Comedy, Romance / English
by Choi Jie-ho