Bettany and Dunst's Love Match
Having once ranked 11th in the World, British tennis star Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) has dropped down the rankings and now in his 30s is about to play Wimbledon one last time before calling time on his career. But a balls up at the hotel leads to Peter meeting rising American star Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) when he walks in on her in the shower. Despite his embarrassment Lizzie takes a shine to Peter not only leading to a surprising love match but also a change in Peter's fortunes as he starts playing the best he ever has and more importantly winning. The same cannot be said for Lizzie who's game suffers and infuriates her father that his promising daughter's head has been turned at a crucial point in her career.
It has to be said there is a strong fairytale feel to "Wimbledon" with the unexpected romance between a rising star and a has been, as well as the knock on effect of the has been's career suddenly picking up. Well to be honest you wouldn't expect much else from such a romantic comedy, but whilst fairytale like there are aspects which may surprise you but do reflect real life no more so than the romance between two tennis stars which back in the 70's happened between Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert. It's the fact that whilst feeling utter predictable genre nonsense there is a semi realistic feel to "Wimbledon" which just makes you think that maybe it's not so make believe after all.
The actual combination of elements, as in the sports and romantic comedy, works quite well. The sports side of "Wimbledon" follows that tried and tested route, the under dog we are set up to champion as his fortunes turn around and he has a shot at glory. It's all nicely done, delivering a certain cliche feel to various scenes but not belittling itself by going full out with an over the top "Rocky" style feel to the action and training. Whilst tennis may not come to mind as being a great theme for a sports movie, it is surprisingly good and the delving into all the pomp and ceremony which accompanies the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament adds something extra, as if we are privy to areas of the tennis world normally unseen by your average Joe but here delivered with a nice touch of humour.
As for the romantic comedy side to "Wimbledon", well the comedy for the most takes a back seat allowing the unlikely romance between Peter and Lizzie to take centre stage. That's not to say there is no humour, but the humour is often subtle and not forced upon us with what feel like overly contrived set pieces. The romantic theme is surprisingly enjoyable, delivering predictability but in an enjoyable manner which makes you feel at home with the relationship. You know where it's all going to lead, you can second guess the rise and falls of the romance especially when it comes to superstitious tennis players who don't want to change their routines but it all feels semi-natural. Even the initial meet cute when Peter walks in on Lizzie in the shower doesn't feel forced upon us for the sake of seeing Kirsten Dunst's naked body silhouetted behind a shower screen. It's the naturalness of "Wimbledon" which makes it work rather than feeling cheesy or too run of the mill, despite it being so.
As for the performances, well Paul Bettany is the star of "Wimbledon", playing a slightly more believable version of the stereotypical affable Englishman, the sort of thing Colin Firth trades on in a lot of his movies. It's a nice performance and charms us as we side with him both as a has been tennis player and as the love interest in an unlikely love match. Whilst Bettany stars, Kirsten Dunst does an equally good job of playing the driven young tennis star, pushed by her obsessive father. Dunst does a remarkable job of distancing herself from many of her previous movie roles so it doesn't feel like we are watching Mary Jane from "Spiderman" or Betty from "Mona Lisa Smile". What does stand out is the unlikely chemistry between Bettany and Dunst, it is believable and the relationship between them is in many ways nice, even cute and most certainly fun.
What this all boils down to is that "Wimbledon" is a crowd pleaser, especially for those wanting a fun, entertaining romantic comedy. It doesn't attempt to be anything unique or original rather than working well with stereotypical elements of the romantic comedy genre along with a sporting element to deliver that charm which will keep you engaged.