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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/09/2004

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Enjoyable romcom that succeeds thanks to strong performances from Bettany and Dunst.

You pretty much know what you’re going to get when you see the words “British” and “romcom” in conjunction with the words “Working Title”: a likeable upper-middle-class Englishman who may or may not have floppy hair but has a nice line in one-liners; a feisty American female lead to ensure healthy Stateside box office; and a Comedy Sidekick who’s a little on the unscrupulous side.

All these ingredients are present and correct for Wimbledon, but happily – at least for anyone who felt Love Actually was like being trapped in a sugar factory - the words “Richard�� and “Curtis” do not appear on the writing credits.

Fading British Tennis Star…Familiar Enough?

Paul Bettany stars as fading British tennis player Peter Colt, who was once ranked 11th in the world but now faces retirement as a tennis coach to some excitable old ladies. Granted a wild card in the Wimbledon championship, he declares it will be his final tournament, fully expecting to be knocked out in the first round.

However, his luck takes a sudden upswing when he falls for Kirsten Dunst’s bad girl tennis star Lizzie Bradbury and he finds himself playing the best tennis of his life. Unfortunately, the relationship has the opposite effect on Lizzie, much to the consternation of her over-protective father and coach, Sam Neill.

Bettany makes an enormously appealing romantic lead in a role that will hopefully bring him the star status he deserves and he’s ably matched by Dunst. There’s also strong comic support from James McAvoy (as Peter’s feckless younger brother) and Jon Favreau as his opportunistic agent who suddenly reappears as Colt starts to actually win matches.

On top of this there’s a sweet sub-plot involving Bernard Hill and Eleanor Bron as Peter’s bickering parents, who effect a gradual reconciliation while watching his matches. As if this wasn’t enough, Robert Lindsay wrings comedy gold from a tiny part as the tennis club owner – he even manages to get laughs during a scene where he’s only present as a voice on an answering machine.

Technical Scenes Work Well

The tennis scenes work well and are excitingly shot, despite their over-reliance on CGI balls - ex-Wimbledon champion Pat Cash was on hand for “tennis choreography” as well as, presumably, a few tips for the crowd-climbing scene.

In addition, John McEnroe and Chris Evert provide valuable match commentary that adds to the general feeling that the film-makers successfully captured the atmosphere of Wimbledon, as well as the ‘feel’ of watching it on TV.

In short, Wimbledon may not hit every shot but it serves up plenty of winners and has a lot going for it, chiefly in the relationship between Bettany and Dunst, who have surprising chemistry together. To be fair, the fact that Dunst spends a lot of the film in a tennis skirt probably won’t hurt the film, either. Recommended.

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Content updated: 15/12/2019 17:34

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