The movie stars Paul Bettany as Peter Colt, and Kirsten Dunst as Lizzie Bradbury; both are tennis pros -- she a rising star and a top seeded player, he a fading one. Lizzie's greatness is ahead of her, but Peter Colt fears his is all in the rear view mirror. He was once ranked 11th in the world; now down around 113 and falling. He gets a wild card berth at Wimbledon and vows; win or lose he'll retire from the pro circuit after Wimbledon, his last tournament.
Along the way Peter and Lizzie meet in London and the sparks fly. Their screen chemistry is very good and fun to watch and enhanced by the clever dialogue. They fall in love. Lizzie has a bit of a tiger cat in her spirit, and it rubs off on Peter. He becomes hungry for victory and she helps him improve his game. But Lizzie’s controlling father, Sam Neill, steps in and kiboshes the romance because, he claims, it is distracting Lizzie from her game. So here we have the classic rom-com formula. Boy meets girl; boy gets girl; boy loses girl; and then what?
All of this is told in a movie with an insider’s view into pro tennis. The tennis scenes are well choreographed and acted (Bettany looks to me like a competent player). Since the movie was filmed on the real Wimbledon tennis complex, it makes sense visually and dramatically, and evokes the loneliness of a sport where everything depends on one person - one serve and one ground stroke at a time. No possible lame excuses; it is up to you. Interior monologues allow us to hear Peter talking to himself, psyching himself out, quieting his fears. Is it ridiculous to believe he plays better because he's madly in love? Of course not.
No spoilers on the tennis match. Two more reasons to watch this excellent romance/underdog movie: 1) Peter’s family, especially his father, add humor and some touching scenes of family love. 2) The closing scene is perfect as Peter and Lizzie celebrate the meaning of true success and subtly condemn cultural decline so beloved and encouraged by modern Hollywood trash.
Written by Ben Clark. Copyright 2016-2023. All rights reserved.