In December I wrote about my favourite Christmas movies that I watch every year. There’s only one other seasonal film that always gets a viewing, this time during the Summer, and that’s Wimbledon.
Wimbledon is a great, and greatly under-appreciated, film which I’ll happily watch all year round, but the beginning of the championships usually reminds me that it’s been a while since my last viewing. It’s not a film people tend to get terribly enthusiastic about, which I think is a shame because while it might not be the most surprising plot, it is a sweet story with a lot of heart and an endearing set of characters.
One of the best things about Wimbledon is that you don’t have to like tennis to enjoy it. I have a pretty vague interest in the sport, but this film really grabbed my attention the first time, and, if I’m honest, I’ve probably become more interested in tennis since.
What we have here is another Working Title RomCom, and it’s a fairly predictable one: boy meets girl, obstacles are overcome, happily ever after etc. etc. What makes the film great is the backdrop of the tennis tournament and, in no small part, Paul Bettany’s loveable failing ex-tennis champ Peter Colt, on his last legs as a wild card entry.
I think without Bettany, this film would have a lot less going for it. He has just the right amount of sarcasm and self-deprecating humour to fit the part perfectly, while creating a character you really warm to. In my opinion, he is a truly great actor who can brighten up even bad movies, effortlessly carrying this one. There’s real emotion in the final match scenes, which still have me holding my breath as he serves, despite the fact I know exactly what’s going to happen.
And while we’re talking about the matches, a great deal of effort has gone into making each one an exciting ride, using bullet time technology and CGI tennis balls to give variety to what could be a very repetitive format. The final match in particular is loaded with tension. What I really love about the tennis matches though, are the occasions when we go inside Colt’s head and hear his thoughts, which are refreshingly un-confident and honest.
On to the rest of the cast, and what a supporting cast we have! Kirsten Dunst just about manages to be likeable playing Lizzie, a character who is essentially a bit of a brat. Although every time she says “Peter” I can’t help but think “Parker.”
Making up the rest we have a series of great British actors, including Bernard Hill, Eleanor Bron and the fantastic James McAvoy (no trace of Scots accent) who delivers a great overlooked sibling, his obvious cycling prowess never once mentioned by any of the other characters. Jon Favreau works well as the money grabbing agent, and Sam Neil finishes the group nicely as Lizzie’s overbearing father.
Wimbledon portrays a certain kind of Englishness that I think is very much defined by the tennis tournament. We sit and eat our strawberries in silence, only cheering at the allowed times, and will always, always, love an underdog on his way back up from the bottom. There’s also a lot of dry British humour, which cuts through any moments of mushyness. There’s a great friendship between Colt and German training partner Prohl, and of course the final match has to be pitted against an over-confident cocky American jerk, but Englishman Colt is just a stereotyped; as the privileged Middle Class boy, with bickering parents and constant need to apologise.
Wimbledon is a great film to watch as a warm up for the real life action to come, or at any other time when you need a pick me up. It’s a heart-warming story, with edge-of-your-seat tennis matches and a hero you can really root for. Makes me come over all patriotic.