2 STARS – SHALLOW, BUT ENTERTAINING
Success often comes from places so deep within us that we don’t know how to access it. Thinking that success comes from luck, we can often look at the successful and simply envy their good fortune. Conversely, that thinking success comes from hard work or relentless practice, it is easy for us to painfully sacrifice for this elusive goal only to be defeated time after time. This is the experience of journeyman tennis player Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) in Richard Loncraine’s film, “Wimbledon.”
Having played tennis for 25 years, and having fallen from the 11th ranked player to the 115th, Peter has decided that he does not have whatever it is that gives a player success. Deciding that this is due in part to his privileged lifestyle as the son of wealthy but estranged British parents, he goes to his final Wimbledon planning on retiring from the sport. But then he unexpectedly meets Lizzy Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst).
Opposite Peter’s British reserve, Lizzy’s American brashness, sexual flirtations and pervasive confidence have a dizzying effect on Peter’s game. The story is somewhat predictable with an over-protective father watching over Lizzy and a dysfunctional family supporting Peter.
A feel-good film with little depth of morality, the central study of what makes a person successful is not clearly presented. If it was true that all it takes for a person to become a world-champion tennis player is to fall in love and become intimate with a beautiful and encouraging lover, then this film would be a valuable experience that enriches our lives.
Though it is true that love is a powerful force, it is hard to accept that what Peter and Lizzy experience in their few days of passion has grown into such an empowering form of love, or at least the kind of love that is more than a form of athletic prowess or pre-game superstition.
Success comes from deeper places of the soul where the person longs for meaning, purpose and significance that marshals the full complement of their abilities. This experience of knowing who we are and for what purpose we were created can then create a life that is not only excellent in some specific area of sports, but also in ways in which the person finds fulfillment for their soul.
Peter and Lizzy exhibit this kind of success as we go beyond Wimbledon and see them several years later when they are no longer playing for the cheers of admiring crowds, but are teaching their children the simple joys of family and love as they play tennis. It is then that we realize that the success they discovered is not that of athletic victory but the deepening of their lives into ones of marital commitment, parental fulfillment and familial joy. That is success that reaches their souls.
- When Lizzy is so casual about herself that she offers to “go to bed” with Peter if he can hit a tennis can with his serve, what do you believe she was saying about herself? And Peter?
- Lizzy’s father had sublimated his broken marriage and life into his drive for Lizzy to be a tennis champion. Have you experienced any similar pressure from your own parents?
- When do you believe Lizzy and Peter moved from infatuation or sexual desire to love? What is the difference between them or are they just variations of the same thing?
- The superstition surrounding athletics comes from the awareness that victory is often a result of luck. How much do you believe the success of your life is due to luck? How much to hard work? Do you think you can work hard enough to always be a success?