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Wimbledon

The best romantic comedies are equally about both characters. There are exceptions, such as Tootsie, but arguably that movie was a comedy and growth story first and a romance second anyway.

Wimbledon is billed as a romantic comedy, but is almost entirely about the guy Peter Colt, played by the likeable but unremarkable Paul Brittany.

Kirsten Dunst's top billing, while understandable for marketing reasons, isn't really deserved. (The same ignominious fate befell Helen Hunt, second-billed in both Castaway and What Women Want; in both movies her talents and credit were disproportionate to her character). Further, Dunst isn't at the top of her game (nyuk nyuk) unfortunately - her characterisation seems shallow compared to her work in movies such as The Cat's Meow. That may be due to the writing however. The potential for an interesting character - talented and bitchy on the court, flighty and vulnerable off - was there, but not fully realised, despite the obligatory subplot about her relationship with her domineering, but ultimately understanding, father.

Writers Adam Brooks, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin were trying to emulate Richard Curtis I think (and why the hell not?), but didn't quite get there. The wit wasn't as sharp, the supporting characters (a Curtis trademark) not as pronounced and the pain not as deep. The best romcoms have their characters hurt each other to the core. In Wimbledon Paul's aching back wounds him far more deeply than his aching heart.

Some of the plot moves - Peter having to play his best friend, beat - with more than his fair share of luck - England's best hope in the tournament, go up against the boychild Lizzie was sleeping with in the grand final - all could have been exploited better. But they're not, so Peter seems to be carried by the story rather than driving it.

And the central conflict - the tension between winning in love and on the court - is raised and resolved so quickly and with such lack of consequence that the movie really doesn't know what to do with itself in the last 15 minutes.

Which might be why this romantic comedy decides to become a sports movie during the final (nyuk nyuk) sequence. But is the ending really ever in doubt? And, the conflict between Peter and Lizzie having been resolved in the dressing room 15 minutes earlier, do we really care?

It's not explained why a Wimbledon singles semi-final is played on an outside court, but I guess it was done either for budgetary reasons or to save the centre court atmosphere for the last match. Not that I think it worked. There are some flashy camera moves during the tennis matches yet the most exciting sports action are the shots that are covered "straight", that don't look obviously fake (though imdb confirms what I suspected, that CGI balls were inserted into the footage). Overall you don't get the visceral sense of being inside the action or - despite repeated voice overs - inside the player's head.

Oh - a note to director Richard Loncraine or Dunst: you don't make a scene romantic or the guy lovable by having the girl break into giggles every few minutes. It actually got slightly annoying - but only slightly, because this movie isn't one that arouses strong emotions one way or another. (Maybe Loncraine should stick to dramas where he's achieved better results.)

All that said, despite these criticisms, Wimbledon is a pleasant diversion. There aren't a lot of tennis movies around so the setting was fresh and the bones of a decent story were there, just not fleshed out.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 3, 2005 10:38 PM.

The previous post in this blog was The American President.

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