Wimbledon

| September 17, 2004

Boy meets girl… Boy loses girl… Boy does something very cool… Boy gets girl. An age old plot in literature that never seems to get old. Wimbledon is the latest movie to follow that equation and it comes up serving an ace.
Britain’s Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) has never quite lived up to his promise and dream of tennis stardom. Once upon a time he was rated 11th in the world but had slipped to 119th and his confidence and ability were slowly leaving him. He is granted a wild card bid to Wimbledon (Britain’s yearly two-week advertisement for tennis in the rain) and decides that this will be his last professional tournament and will take a job as tennis pro at a country club.
The Tennis Gods must have had a soft spot for Colt when he meets and hits it off with American, Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), the rising star of the tennis world about to play in her first Wimbledon. Did I mention she likes to relax during tournaments by finding a tennis playing play toy? She does. And Colt becomes her toy de Wimbledon.
Not only did the Tennis Gods like Colt, but they thought they would give him a going away present and he begins to win matches. Partial luck, partial skill, partial Bradbury’s belief in him, but he ends up in the Finals playing young American hotshot Jake Hammond, who had also received the Bradbury treatment back in the States.
Predictable? Yes. But captivating. Paul Bettany’s first few movie appearances included A Knight’s Tale, A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander where he plays the best friend, gently directing the main character. In Wimbledon, he takes the lead and exploits the opportunity wonderfully. He was in shape for the part and made the tennis moves look real. This is quite a feat since all the tennis balls in the movie were added with CGI. With the use of motion control and blue screen elements, the visual effects team was able to achieve some impossible camera moves, such as a tennis ball point-of-view shot that speeds across the court, only to slow before the opponent returns the shot.
Jon Favreau turned in a great performance as Bettany’s agent and also of note was Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Enigma, Black Hawk Down) who plays Colt’s best friend and training partner. He gave Bettany the sounding board he needed in a subtle but thorough way.
As for lead Kirsten Dunst, I need to say the following. In Bring It On, I thought she was the least athletic cheerleader I had ever seen. In Wimbledon, it is hard to see her as an athlete–she just can not sell the muscle memory. In scenes without a racket in her hands she is cute and everything you would want in a female lead, but she needs to stop doing the sports thing. The trailer would have you think the movie was all about her, but in reality, she does not play that much–its all about Bettany.
The movie was filmed on the actual grounds of and using the crowd from the Wimbledon tournament during the 2003 tournament which was just the dose of reality the film needed. Not all of the best lines are included in the trailer which is a good omen for a film. This is a great date movie and if this is the flick your significant other wants to “drag” you to, go willingly and enjoy a wonderful little love story with enough sports (especially the last 14 minutes) to keep the most jaded guy happy.

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