NOT A RACKET
The new Kirsten Dunst film, Wimbledon is not as bad as some of the critics have said. I went with one of my twenty-something male students, and he pronounced along with the closing credits, "That was actually entertaining." High praise, considering I had to drag him there. (It balanced out, because I let him drag me to Sky Captain...) From the standpoint of the new evangelization and guaging the "Signs of the Times," Wimbledon is pretty much a must see.
Coming from the folks who did Notting Hill and Four Weddings, this is a mostly British romantic comedy that is most funny when it exploits the "quirky group of friends and family" that made both of those prior films work. Unfortunately, all the humor drops out before the mid-point of the film, as the writers try desperately to find a reason why two people should be committed to each other. I mean, we really don't have to make a commitment anymore, do we? Why do we even want to? So, what is the point of this film?
Fascinating problem for the modern romantic comedy.
I also watched Pillow Talk this weekend, starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Back in the 50's romance preceded sex. And then marriage - or at least permanent commitment was the goal. They didn't have to struggle with ambivalence about the point of it all. The audience knew what to root for, and the writers challenge was in getting the two warring parties into permanent commitment in the most humorous way.
Then, we had three decades of the sexual revolution in the movies. And the net result is we don't know what romance is, we think permanent commitment is a fantasy, and we wouldn't swear that blood or marriage has anything to do with family. It's really a quandry for the whole romantic comedy genre, because they all end up turning into dramas now! In comedy, funny is supposed to be first, but in romantic comedy, a kind of crippled metaphysics is ending up first. Love it.
Wimbledon, very much in the mode of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and my friends are telling me Garden State, by the way, ultimately makes its way back to the same values as Pillowtalk, although sadly and with an air of resignation. It's like Generation X is saying, "We can't stop wanting unconditional permanent love. Our parents told us it's a phantom. Our grandparents lived as though it was real. We choooooooooooooooooooose, ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, our grandparents."
One of the funniest confusions in contemporary drama is everything having to do with sex. So, in Wimbledon sex is something that needs to be gotten out of the way so that romance becomes possible. Amazing! The seediest moments of the movie occur when the Kirsten Dunst character propositions her handsome lead. She notes early on that fooling around before a tennis match is a good kind of recreation. They both agree, and so they go to bed. Then, later, when they start to really care for one another, the romance is played out in a slow-mo montage of them walking on the beach, running in the park, talking and eating. These "romantic" scenes are almost completely devoid of physical contact.
Later in the film, sex actually becomes the enemy of the relationship. The couple almost breaks up over it. But not in any Christian sense, of "By using each other like things, we have ruined our chance for real sexual intimacy." It's more that the sex is opposed to self-donation instead of being the impulse of self-donation.
It's all such a mess. A wonderful hopeful mess for us with a theology of the body to unleash. Because sex isn't going away any time soon. It's just when and how we are going to make our case. We're going to need more than academic papers here.
Anyway, I wouldn't recommend Wimbledon to unaccompanied teens, as there are too many issues that need to be processed, and I would be afraid that they would absorb some of its confusions - or have their own confusions validated. I recommend it as fascinating viewing for anybody who pastors or counsels young people.