It's hard to define what makes 'Wimbledon' work so well where the vast majority of other romantic comedies are such utter flops. The ending is somewhat predictable, the story follows the same basic line, there's the usual healthy interspersing of sex and jokes. But still, there's something special about this movie that makes it simply a joy to watch.
Certainly, the chemistry between Paul Bettany (as the seasoned tennis pro) and Kirsten Dunst (as the enfant terrible of the game) goes a long way toward what makes 'Wimbledon' so worth watching. Whenever these two are on the screen together, from their first meeting to the final shot of the film, they seem utterly meant to be together. They seem to share a genuine warmth and easy attitude together, never a put-on or an act. Rarely have I seen an on-screen couple that seemed so natural and unforced.
The humor of the film is also of a higher caliber than most similar movies. Always clever and sharp but never overdone, the laughs in the movie are many, and they are also remarkably genuine.
The style of the film, capturing the tempestuous game of tennis both on and off the court, helps a great deal as well. Most romantic comedies don't go the extra mile of capturing their subject so well, but I came away at the end of 'Wimbledon' energized equally by the sportsmanship I'd seen (an illusion remarkably well pulled off for the movie) as I was by the flowering romance essential to the story. From dynamic, 'follow-the-ball' camera shots to timed-exposure and uniquely dramatic angles and editing, I found myself enjoying the film for its technical wizardry as much as the story -- and I didn't even realize until it was over and I watched some of the DVD extras just how much of the film was crafted after the fact!
'Wimbledon' is the sort of movie that you can get caught up in easily. Truly warm, charming, and funny, it's just the sort of pick-me-up movie that can lighten the darkest of spirits, and make you feel good about love and life. And really, what more could you ask?
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Rich Stoehr (GlassIsland)
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Richard Loncraine's WIMBLEDON is a lighthearted romantic comedy set in the high-pressure world of professional tennis. Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) is a 31-year-old Englishman who was once ranked 11th in the world, but has now dropped to a pathetic 119th. Realizing that his days are numbered, Peter intends to retire from the game after playing in one final Wimbledon. But when he accidentally walks into the hotel room of rising American star Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), sparks begin to fly and Peter begins to find his touch on the court once again. Unfortunately for Peter, Lizzie's overbearing father, Dennis (Sam Neill), is well aware that Lizzie's game suffers when she is distracted by love, and he bans the two from seeing each other. This doesn't bode well for Peter, who is about to play in the final against cocky American superstar Jake Hammond (Austin Nichols). Not to mention the fact that Peter has the hopes of an entire nation riding on his shoulders. Loncraine's breezy comedy is fueled by the chem...