Director Richard Loncraine's surprisingly sweet look at the game of love features some delightful back-and-forth banter and kinetic tennis scenes that go a long way toward compensating for the formulaic plot line. Life isn't turning out the way 31-year-old Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) expected. Where he once ranked 11th on the professional circuit, he's now dropped to 119th; his daffy but sweet parents (Bernard Hill, Eleanor Bron) are having marital trouble and he's going to have to retire from his beloved career to take a job as a country-club tennis instructor, catering to ladies of leisure. The bright spot in this generally gloomy picture is that he's landed Britain's wild-card spot at Wimbledon, giving him a perfect opportunity to go out on a high note. Upon checking in at the Dorchester Hotel, he's mistakenly given a key to a lush suite that happens to be occupied by U.S. tennis champ Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), a saucy youngster who's rising quickly through the ranks. Though famously prone to fits of temper, Lizzie is thoroughly charmed by the sweet-natured Englishman and, thanks to her oh-so-American forthrightness, they're soon sharing dinner and a lively tumble between the sheets. Their brief encounter proves positively inspiring for Peter and he scores a handy victory in his first-round match. But Lizzie's overprotective father/coach Dennis (Sam Neill) attempts to put a stop to Peter's advances; romance, he says, impedes his beloved daughter's serve. The pair nonetheless find ways to keep meeting and Peter keeps on winning, even when faced with the difficult challenge of playing his friend and practice partner, Dieter Prohl (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Lizzie and Peter dodge the nagging paparazzi who are determined to find out why she split with golden boy Jake Hammond (Austin Nichols), and who she's seeing instead. Peter, meanwhile, is the subject of renewed interest to both the press and his absentee agent (Jon Favreau) as he becomes a contender for Wimbledon's top prize. Loncraine smartly includes a well-rounded cast of supporting characters and clearly invested considerable energy in finding ways to keep the tennis matches visually interesting. Bettany, previously best known as a supporting player, shoulders the burden of a Hugh Grant-style romantic lead surprisingly well, revealing an offbeat charm that meshes well with Dunst's straightforwardly girl-next-door appeal. Together they're a quirky but believable couple, and it would take a hard heart not to wish them well.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Director Richard Loncraine's surprisingly sweet look at the game of love features some delightful back-and-forth banter and kinetic tennis scenes that go a long way toward compensating for the formulaic plot line. Life isn't turning out the way 31-year-old… (more)