A review of “Wimbledon” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ** 1/2

Rating: PG-13 for language and sexuality

Run Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

 

 

Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst put their love match to the test in this lightweight romantic comedy set against the grassy green courts of Britain’s Wimbledon.

Bettany is up front and center as Peter Colt, a veteran English player whose less-than-glorious career is coming to an unceremonious end.  He’s ranked 119th in the world and his thirteenth Wimbledon will be his last.  Dunst is American spitfire Lizzie Bradbury, an up-and-comer who will go out of her way to disrupt a match and turn the consequential chaos to her psychological advantage.

Peter and Lizzie meet cute as the result of a hotel room switcheroo that finds Lizzie in the shower and Peter politely befuddled but covertly delighted by the encounter.  Frisky flirtation turns to hanky panky which segues into a languorous, montage-based romance.

Peter’s game benefits, as he claws his way from a Wild Card draw into the quarter-finals and beyond. Lizzie’s does not, much to the consternation of her pushy manager dad (Sam Neill) and an incessant and frenzied throng of reporters.

As the veteran of many Wimbledons (as observer, not player), I am ably qualified to criticize.  Wimbledon is rife with clichés, so thoroughly sugarcoated that it’s almost easy to forgive it its flaws.  Everything about the project is simplified, from the old-school brand of tennis (a la Rod Laver as opposed to Andy Roddick), to the romance (boy loves girl, boy loses girl, etc.) to the cheap veneer laid on a tournament so steeped in tradition that participants are still directed to wear whites.

Bettany and Dunst play well off one another, Bettany finally getting the chance to prove his mettle as a romantic lead.  The script is trite but palatable, a silly trifle of recreational and sexual banter.  Picky point, but neither actor comes close to displaying (or faking) the athletic prowess necessary to play the current international circuit. 

The real star is the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, which graciously granted the filmmakers unlimited access to its grounds and blazes bright as a shrine to the gentleman’s game.