Pro tennis player Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) arrives at Wimbledon ranked 119th and ready to retire as soon as he is beaten during the tournament. It’s there he meets a tenacious new star in the tennis world, Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), who is instantly intrigued by Peter. As the two begin to spend more time with one another, Peter’s game begins to improve and he begins an unlikely journey to the finals.
Wimbledon is certainly a romantic comedy, but it’s also an underdog story. Peter is at the end of his career, easily overshadowed by the younger competition, at least where it comes to fans and the media. His parents are going through a rough patch in their marriage (his father has moved into the treehouse outside) and his younger brother, played by a very young, fresh-faced James McAvoy, has a gambling problem with a habit of betting against Peter in every match he faces. Lizzie’s competitive nature has made her a somewhat polarizing figure in the media but she refuses to let anything distract her from her goal of winning Wimbledon. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to have a little fun and maybe blow off some steam, and that’s where Peter comes in.
Dunst and Bettany have really cute chemistry together, but ultimately this movie belongs to Bettany. He’s an incredibly appealing lead with an aw-shucks likeability that reminded me a lot of Hugh Grant. While I really enjoyed his scenes with Dunst, the movie was still just as interesting without her. It’s Peter Colt’s last hurrah in the sports world and watching him play and win his way through the competition is the kind of feel good storyline I love to see in my sporty, romantic comedies. Yes, the final game is predictably played against a young, arrogant American who is expected to win without much effort, but despite knowing how it’s likely to end, it’s still satisfying to watch Peter pull himself together, with the help of Lizzie, and not go down without a fight.
I felt like Wimbledon struck a good balance between the sports angle and the romance. It was important to execute that well because it’s clear a lot of Peter’s motivation and inspiration came from his blossoming relationship with Lizzie. The conflict they faced in their relationship was a believable one. Is there room for love when one’s ambition is to win at all costs? Lizzie was headstrong and occasionally irrational but she was never fully in the wrong, nor was Peter. Their “dark moment” was not caused by miscommunication or jealousy, but by relatable, understandable circumstances. I always appreciate a romantic comedy that doesn’t take the easy route to a break up by tossing in a vicious ex or a text or voicemail taken out of context.
I’m not a huge fan of the sport, but I found the tennis sequences fascinating to watch. I knew it was a movie but I was still on the edge of my seat while watching the matches. It helps that Jon Favreau (playing Peter’s agent) was in the stands supplying the comedic relief during the more intense moments.
I have to add that the supporting cast was marvelous as well, especially McAvoy and Bernard Hill, who plays Peter’s father. I would love to see McAvoy in more comedic roles. He has the talent for it.
Wimbledon has a fresh, funny script that doesn’t skimp on the character development. The romance feels real and the scenery is quite gorgeous. This is definitely one I was glad to watch again and one I will no doubt revisit again in the future.