Directed by: Richard Loncraine
Starring: Paul Bettany, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Neill, Robert Lindsay, Eleanor Bron, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
I spent a good deal of time during Richard Loncraine's Wimbledon thinking: You know, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is really loud (since it was playing in the next auditorium, and could be heard through the wall). I spent some more time mulling over the fact that Kirsten Dunst has rather odd teeth. And I then I passed a bit more time realizing that the reason Eleanor Bron looks as old as she does is probably related to the fact that, yes, it has been 35 years since she was in Women in Love. I suppose the latter reflections were perhaps a bit ungallant, but they all point to the basic problem with Wimbledon -- it doesn't really hold your attention.
I would call the film a monument to ordinariness. In fact, to borrow an Orson Welles line from an old movie, I couldn't help thinking that the movie was so determined to be ordinary that it was virtually invisible. Was this uninvolving -- if harmless -- film made by the same director who helmed the Ian McKellen vehicle Richard III, where Richard fell to his death as Al Jolson belted out "I'm Sitting on Top of the World"? Indeed. And I've yet to figure out why it occurred to anyone that Loncraine was the person to tackle this cinematic froufrou.
Truthfully, it's not so much Loncraine who's at fault as it is the screenwriters: Adam Brooks (Invisible Circus), Jennifer Flackett (Madeline) and Mark Levin (Madeline). Putting it mildly, these folks are not in the Richard Curtis (Love Actually) class but in the Romantic Comedy 101 league. Here they've concocted a humorless screenplay that might have been Xeroxed from any one of a dozen or more films of the same sort. And where the script doesn't bury the film, the casting of its main characters steps in.
Top-billed Kirsten Dunst seems to be one of those actresses who isn't likely to go anywhere interesting, despite having had a couple surprise performances -- portraying Marion Davies in The Cat's Meow and handling a supporting role in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Playing Spider-Man's girlfriend isn't exactly demanding (even if Spidey 2 filmmakers unwisely turned her loose on Oscar Wilde), and nothing she does here suggests that she is likely to ever play anything other than two-dimensional leads who are meant to skirt by on the actress' own personality. And even that ploy doesn't work so hot, since the character she plays in Wimbledon isn't terribly likable. Blame the script, which insists on making her a petulant, spoiled brat who can't take defeat without stomping her foot and threatening to hold her breath -- presumably because tennis stars have been known to be rather ill-tempered.
Paul Bettany, on the other hand, is simply out of his depth in his first major attempt at carrying a film. Fine in supporting roles in movies like A Knight's Tale and Master and Commander, he seems uncomfortable holding the screen on his own -- no surprise that in Wimbledon, he finally seems to be supporting the supporting players.
It's not that this simple story of romance on the world's most famous tennis courts is actively bad (though I think I would respect it more if it were). It's that Wimbledon is so completely uninvolving and so totally by-the-numbers that no amount of directorial flash -- and Loncraine does a good job with the tennis games -- can make it into other than mildly diverting and painlessly adequate.
My major impression of it remains that Resident Evil: Apocalypse is really loud.
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke