As soon as you find out that Wimbledon is a romantic comedy
and an underdog sports movie, you know the ending. And of course
it’s going to be a happy one. Yet there’s a reason why
we keep going back to watch the same essential plot acted by different
actors, so don’t let the predictability get in the way. Pretend
that this story doesn’t happen in every other aisle of Blockbuster,
and the result isn’t half bad.
Peter Colt (Bettany) is a professional tennis
player beginning the downward path from his prime. At one point
he was ranked 11th in the world, but he’s now 32 years old
and 119th. In frequent voiceovers, where the filmgoer is given a
glimpse into Peter’s mind, we find that he has problems of
self-doubt about his age and abilities. This year Peter’s
been given a wild card position at Wimbledon, but he’s not
expecting anything more spectacular to happen this year than the
previous 12 years he’s been invited. He’s even planned
to retire no matter the results, and has lined up a job at the country
club teaching the local ladies, with their not-so-subtle suggestive
comments, how to play tennis.
That is, until Peter is accidentally given the wrong hotel room
key at Wimbledon, and thus intrudes on fellow tennis player Lizzie
Bradbury (Dunst), known for her aggressive, go-getter
attitude. The same tactics that helps her win on the court are used
to her advantage with Peter, who can’t seem to resist her,
especially after a correlation develops between spending time with
Lizzie and winning matches. In these scenes, London may have surpassed
NYC as the most romantic backdrop for a movie.
Turns out, all this knight needed was his lady’s proverbial
handkerchief to inspire him to be all he can be. Peter could be
having the worst day of his life on the court, but if he happens
to glance up and see Lizzie’s blue eyes in the crowd, well,
let’s just say that if things always happened that way, then
Lauren Bedford, Mandy Moore, or whoever Andy
Roddick’s latest girlfriend is, would be a constant
on the sidelines.
Everything would be too easy without a few complications in the
way. The first problem is that this relationship is supposed to
be kept “fun and relaxed” so each player can concentrate
on his or her game. This problem is quickly ignored and laid aside.
Another problem is that Lizzie’s father (Neill)
is strict, stern, and wants Lizzie to forget about this boy so she
can win the tournament. But fathers are a minor obstacle for a man
in his early 30s and a headstrong woman, and thus this match (pun
intended) is smooth sailing except for the obligatory lover’s
spat that occurs sometime in the middle of the movie.
With each of Peter’s wins, life improves for everyone around
him. His parents (Hill and Bron),
living in a secluded English countryside, have not gotten along
in years. However, they can now bond over the achievements of their
son. Peter’s brother Carl (McAvoy) also finds
his own success through his brother’s fame. And this doesn’t
even include the newfound popularity of Peter’s agent, Ron
The tournament itself is filmed smartly, with clever camera effects
to show movement of the ball and create suspense. Commentary on
the game is provided by several real life tennis pros/commentators,
which tennis followers should enjoy.