Wimbledon


Directed by: Richard Loncraine
Written by:Adam Brooks, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
Starring: Paul Bettany, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Neill, Bernard Hill, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Released: September 30, 2004
Grade: B+

Wimbledon, London (AP) – It may sound like a cliché, but the hopes of a nation ride today with Peter Colt who looks to become the first Englishman in over 70 years to win the men’s singles crown at Wimbledon.  He’ll be battling the odds however with rising American Austin Nichols starting as an overwhelming favourite in his own pursuit of the Wimbledon title.

Colt may be the underdog but he’ll be the number one choice of the fans adoring centre court.  Ranked 117 and playing in his final tournament before retirement, the 32-year-old Colt is looking for a Cinderella finish to a career which has offered so much but produced so little.  His best finish in a grand slam before today was a semi-final birth at the U.S. Open almost seven years ago.

It seems Colt has been a winner both on and off the court this week.  His new relationship with young American sensation Lizzie Bradbury has also been headline material with paparazzi following their each and every move.  For a man who hasn’t beaten a seeded player in over two years, this fortnight will be one Colt never forgets.

How he remembers the final chapter however all depends on the play on his opponent.  Nichols may not have Colt’s experience but he has the form and the credentials to take the next step.  Having eliminated previous champion Lleyton Hewitt in the earlier rounds, the stage is set for Nichols to crash England’s party and take the coveted title back to the United States.

 

Wimbledon is like most other sporting films in that we watch a hopeless underdog try to find success.  They always make it to the final hurdle but whether that hurdle is cleared is something the audience must patiently wait for.

We don’t often see Paul Bettany (Master & Commander, A Beautiful Mind) in a leading role but he the clear star of Wimbledon.  He’s make Peter Colt a very likeable character and his superb performance brings through the fear and doubt that so often clouds his mind.  I didn’t feel as strongly for Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) who seemed too ditzy and emotional.  Her tennis ability could also use a little work.

The centre court climax is the film’s obvious highlight.  It was shot back in 2003 during the actual Wimbledon tournament and I know it was a real thrill for Bettany.  The setting is superb and the drama and suspense are beautifully drawn out by English director Richard Loncraine.  With little quirks of the camera lens, I also liked Loncraine’s technique is showing us the busy and unstable mind of our hero.

The film has its flaws and I must ask, what’s with the computerised tennis balls?  Some rallies look phoney and it doesn’t take a genius to realise that the players are just swatting their rackets in thin air with that little yellow ball added later on.  And while I’m at it, what’s with the semi-final being played on such a small court?

I’ve got many friends who’ll agree that tennis would have to be one of the most boring sports to watch either live or on television.  Whilst they are probably correct, I can say that Wimbledon is a sweet, romantic comedy that will likely provide more entertainment.