Regular reader and contributor Pontiac Dream 39—now going by the more cumbersome, but still endearing, “Always a Kid for Today”—surprised me last week with this excellent movie review submission. It’s a review of the 2004 romantic comedy Wimbledon (2004), starring Kirsten Dunst and Paul Bettany. As a Dunstophile, I very much appreciated this review.
It also saved me having to write a review of my own, so that’s always a plus, too. One less post to fret over—woooooot! I’ve left the substance of the review unchanged from what Ponty sent me, other than adding hyperlinks to the films he references, and italicizing their titles.
But enough of my rambling. Here’s Ponty’s/AaKfT’s/Mike’s review of Wimbledon (2004):
As we move into the warmer months, the build up to the Summer blockbusters will already have started to gather pace. What will we see on the silver screen this year? Will we return to dinosaurs or will it be yet another spin off from the Marvel/DC world? I say, who cares?! I’ve never understood why the biggest grossing films always turn out at the time of year when most of us will be soaking up the sun. Why not put these films on when it’s dark and gloomy and pissing it down? I’d much rather shut myself away in a dark building for a few hours when it’s dank and cold. The Summer is the best time to be out and about and if you are going to watch something, why not a film that is as pedestrian as the season, as bright as the weather?
Romantic comedies suit the bill, for me, and the Brits can do a romantic comedy well. We do have our mistakes, like Love Actually, a film so bad that it makes me long for superheroes, but on occasion, we pull out the stops and deliver something that is funny, heartwarming and makes you feel like you haven’t wasted a few hours of your life when the credits roll. Wimbledon is one such film.
For those who haven’t seen it, get down to your local rental store or on’t’internet and snap it up. It’s a great watch. The love interests, played by Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst, are very believable, it’s a great underdog story, and the supporting cast are very funny.
As the opening credits roll, the audience are treated to two different tennis players, one at the start of her career and the other staring down the twilight of his own. Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) heads to Wimbledon in the form of her life, having just won the French Open. Peter Colt (Paul Bettany), however, is handed a wild card for his home tournament and is anticipating an early exit in what will be his very last event. After a mix up at the team hotel, Colt walks into Bradbury’s room while she is in the shower and their initial meeting leads into a blooming romance, one that will see an upturn in Colt’s fortunes and which will alter both of their lives.
Both characters have very different backgrounds and families. Bradbury, the girl hitting all the headlines, is coached by her overprotective and myopic father, played by Sam Neill, but despite her regimented life, comes across as very relaxed and in need of a bit of chaos. Colt, on the other hand, is a little too relaxed; coachless and agentless, he takes everything in his stride while his parents are as disjointed as ever and his brother, the brilliantly funny James McAvoy, bets on his opponents for every match Colt plays. What starts as ‘fooling around before a match’ swiftly becomes something more for these characters, Bradbury quickly realising that she needs something more than her profession and enjoying a little organised chaos and Colt realising that what has been missing from his life, and game, is love and contentment. As the tournament progresses, and with Colt doing much better than he, his family and everyone else, anticipated, the external focus on him and Bradbury becomes more intense, with a sticky period near the end of the film when Bradbury falsely believes that it is this burgeoning relationship that has made her lose focus and Colt becomes momentarily distracted when he thinks he’s lost the only thing that gave him purpose. Of course, this is a rom com and everything ties up at the end, as it should.
Whoever thought Paul Bettany couldn’t play a romantic lead has never seen this film. Polite and softly spoken, he woos Bradbury without ever really trying to. I’ve watched quite a few of Bettany’s films and he never struck me as narcissistic or in your face so this role suited him down to the ground. Dunst plays off him very well, despite my own hang ups with the idea of Dunst in a romantic role. I’m sorry but every time I see Dunst in any film, all I can see is that little girl in Interview with the Vampire. She’s too young! I find myself yelling at the screen, before checking myself and coming to the realisation that we all grow up, aside from her character in Interview.
The supporting cast provides us with plenty of laughs throughout and moments of genuine warmth. Jon Favreau plays the fickle agent who returns to Colt when he’s winning again. He’s also Bradbury’s agent and is asked, later on in the film, which of his clients he prefers.
‘Which one do I love the most? That’s like asking me which of my kids I love the most? Which of my kids? My daughter!’
McAvoy, who plays Colt’s brother, can be found for a good majority of this film either at the bookies betting against his brother – ‘you have no shame,’ the bookie remarks before the start of one of Colt’s matches – or picking up girls on the back of his brother’s success. Colt’s parents, played by Bernard Hill and Eleanor Bron, find their distractions away from each other until their son’s success brings them closer together and Peter’s best friend, Dieter Prohl (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) ably supports him as he moves through the tournament and the pitfalls of love.
Despite the ups and downs you’d associate with any form of movie, this one feels very pedestrian and I say that as a good thing. Away from the razzmatazz of the tournament and the glitz and the glamour that comes with it, this film has a very British feel to it. At your own pace, as I usually see it. Bradbury and Colt’s relationship never feels rushed and as they spend more time with each other, it takes you back to the time when you fell in love. The rush, the excitement, the getting to know you stages. Yes, it all happens within a two week period but it doesn’t feel like that. By the time the credits roll, you’ll feel like the side along journey you’ve been on was worth it. Better yet, has given you the same warmth this movie brings.