Film review: Wimbledon (2004), directed by Richard Loncraine
Peter Colt (Paul Bettany), ranked the world’s 119th best tennis player, has been on such a losing streak for such a long time that even his brother Carl (James McAvoy) has taken to betting on his opponents. His chances of winning the Wimbledon tennis championship are slim to none, but as he’s got a free pass to take part, he figures he might as well do it to finish off his career. After all, he’s been offered the position as tennis manager at a local sports club (managed by Robert Lindsay), which sounds like a good idea. At 33, you’re simply too old and too slow to be a champion.
American Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) is up and coming, known to be a hot-head, and she’s in it to win it. When Peter is given the wrong room key at the hotel and walks in on her taking a shower … maybe there is more to life than winning. Just maybe. Her father (Sam Neill), on the other hand, doesn’t want any distractions – and Peter might just be the biggest distraction Lizzie has ever come across.
Can Peter win both Lizzie’s heart and Wimbledon? Can Lizzie afford to get distracted?
Also starring Jon Favreau as Peter’s agent, Bernard Hill and Eleanor Bron as Peter’s parents, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Dieter Prohl, Austin Nichols as Jake Hammond, and Celia Imrie as one of the ladies at the tennis club, with John McEnroe and other tennis players/commentators as themselves.
Seeing as how Wimbledon kicks off today, I thought it would be appropriate to finally reviewing the romantic comedy of the same name. I remember going to see Wimbledon in a multiplex cinema in Gothenburg – not because I’m interested in tennis (I’m really not), or because I love British romcoms (I really do), but because Sam Neill was in it. If he’s in a film that actually comes out on cinema, I’m there! The only thing I really remember from the first time I saw this film was that whenever Sam Neill came on screen, there was a shift. That man has a tremendous screen presence. A few watches later, the feeling isn’t as strong as it was the first time, but I still stand by it. He might be playing a grumpy git, but he does it so well.
The sad thing is, Wimbledon isn’t a particularly good film. It’s cute, it has a happy ending, and it’s amusing, but it’s just not very memorable … despite the bit where a few years younger Jaime Lannister only wears a towel. That bit is rather memorable indeed, actually. But the rest? It’s a standard love story, and you can guess how it’s going to end, on all accounts. Sad but true.
That being said, it’s a film I don’t mind re-watching. If compared to the actual tennis tournament, I’d rather watch this film. Maybe it’s more interesting if you’re into tennis, I’m not sure. I just don’t think this predictable but cute romcom is on par with, say, Four Weddings. It’s polite and won’t ruffle any feathers, which also makes it a little disappointing, but hey, Brits love an underdog, and served with some strawberries and cream, you can’t go wrong. After all, Sam Neill is in it.
3 out of 5 tie breaks, but it’s at the lower end of that 3.