Thu September 16, 2004
It is tennis "love" with no points when the film is finally judged.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
When the opening titles are more inventive than the film, disappointment is palpable: Director Richard Loncraine ("Richard III") can excel in the competitive titles niche, but he can't sustain the creativity for the rest of "Wimbledon" itself. Wait, that sounds like a loser in a tennis match. And so it goes.
The love affair between Wimbledon wanabees Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst "Spider Man 2") and Peter Colt (Paul Bettany, "Master and Commander") is as lame as some of the competitors who fatefully twist ankles and wrists giving berths to lucky rivals. That the cute meeting and subsequent passion of the protagonists should deeply affect their performances is the ludicrous subtext of a film that otherwise tries hard to give a sense of what being a tennis combatant means. When Lizzie says that "a little fooling around can be good for your game," we know this is a stretch for Dunst's sometimes-proper roles and a setup for failure on the court the next morning. No surprises.
The interior monologue of the player as he goes for the ball, the locker room and press conferences, the complicated friendships and rivalries are interesting and insightful. Cinematographer Darius Honda provides unusual insider visuals, and while the digital images of balls in flight are both contrived and intriguing, there is art in slowing down for reflection on a game that spins when the ball is served.
The presence of Chris Evert and John McEnroe for commentary adds another touch of reality during the matches. Yet, it is love on which this film spins. As William Allingham said, "Scarcely a tear to shed/Hardly a word to say/The end of a Summer's day/Sweet love is dead." For the romance in "Wimbledon," it is tennis "love" with no points when the film is finally judged.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com.