When Grass Might Be Greener on Your Side

Peter Colt, a 32 year-old British tennis player is about to play in his last Wimbledon. He is seeded 119th in the world and along with everybody, he’s expecting to fade out quietly and lose in the early rounds. Enter Lizzie Bradbury, a flirtatious American girl, who’ll shake his life around or else, we wouldn’t have a movie. Lizzie is a young, rising tennis star, and even tabloid-worthy material.

In their first meet-cute, he enters her suite by mistake and spots her bathing. Lucky for him, she keeps the bathroom door open. The next time they meet, she intrudes on his practice and kids about sleeping arrangements. Lizzie is, in terms of traditional movie romances, the guy who makes the first moves. Peter, on the other hand, is happy enough to play his part and get lucky. And he gets way lucky, because the sex relaxes him and thus, improving his game. But poor Lizzie, the sex has an opposite effect, as her father/trainer suddenly fears.

“Wimbledon” is mainly a romantic comedy with a helping of sports on the side. It’s romantic in the way love is accelerated and the way hours of bonding moments are possible even when they’re supposed to focus on their game. It’s funny in the way the tennis has-been is fumbling his way to his stellar fate. But it’s hardly a sports movie because the outcome of the deciding game will barely contribute to the inevitable ending. Even the tennis played here fails to capture any excitement I’ve felt watching Wimbledon matches. While I appreciate the dazzling special effects and movie treatment of the game, it’s a pale substitute to a game being played for real.

Paul Bettany, notable as a supporting actor in Russell Crowe films “A Beautiful Mind” and “Master and Commander,” prove he can carry a movie and be wonderfully fitting in a comedy with an oddball charm. I love that we are permitted to hear his thoughts during the tennis matches and be reminded that tennis is also a tricky mental sport. Kirsten Dunst plays Lizzie with a carefree spunk, and for the most part, she struts through screen with a confident smile. Sam Neill plays it straight as her reasonable dad who offers some moments of clarity. I guess the other star of the movie is tennis. The last movie I’ve seen that featured a tennis star as the lead is Alfred Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train.” With the rise of inspirational sport dramas, I’m awaiting for tennis to have its own treatment. It is an interesting sport in the sense that you’re the sole player on your team and a distraction can practically ruin your game or, as in the case of this movie, can be what you need to win.

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