Challengers (2024) Review

By Allison Rose   X Formly Known as Twitter
3 Min Read

If you love the game of tennis and you enjoy a good drama/romance, you will undoubtedly like Challengers.

In tennis, love is a bad thing.  Fifteen - Love, Thirty - Love, well,...you get the idea. And love triangles are even worse.  Just ask Art (Mike Faist; West Side Story), Tashi (Zendaya; Dune: Part Two) and Patrick (Josh O'Connor; The Crown).  Follow along if you can...Art loves Tashi, Tashi loves Patrick, and Patrick...Patrick loves himself.  It's the kiss of death for three talented tennis players as they battle for number one in the world ranking and for the love of the person they desire most.  The pressure of competition warps their emotions, ideals, and serves.  It all plays out in director Luca Guadagnino's (Call Me By Your Name) latest feature film, Challengers.

Tashi was the up-and-coming tennis phenom, the one to beat on the women's circuit.  Patrick and Art were two world-ranked men's players who were roommates and best friends, and who both found Tashi very attractive.  Patrick became Tashi's boyfriend but while he was playing tennis around the world, Tashi and Art were good friends while both played and studied at Stanford University.  Art put doubts in Tashi's mind last to Patrick's fidelity, they fought and Tashi got injured while competing, effectively ending her career.  

Years later, Tashi becomes Art's Coach, they become involved, get married, and have a daughter.  Then on his way to the US Open, Tashi decides Art needs a confidence boost and enters him into a small competition in Rockland County, NY.  However, down on his luck Patrick has entered the same event and the three former friends/flings' worlds collide in a showdown for honor, respect, and the most elusive prize of all...love.

Fashion Icon and Emmy Winner, Zendaya plays Tashi as one might expect a world champion tennis player might behave - with drive and determination and a bit of malice and manipulation thrown in.  Faist, known more as a song and dance man, is a little timid with moments of deceptiveness and anger thrown in and O'Connor's Patrick is the frat boy who never grew up antis back with sharp and biting comments when he is (verbally) attacked.  The three have great chemistry but the underlying tension their characters exude lends itself to a sense of disdain buried way beneath the surface.  The question is who do they despise more - each other or themselves?

Guadagnino keeps the film at a steady pace and builds tension well, both on and off the court,  but there is more than one moment in the film that is predictable and can be seen coming from a mile away.  He does, however, infuse Justin Kuritzkes' script with well-executed humorous scenes to help break up some of the heaviness that permeates the movie.  Of course, there are the obligatory tennis ball whizzing through the air shots, said ball bouncing on the clay court before being hit by the racket, the crowd watching intently following with their heads as the ball flies back and forth over and over again, etc. that become a little cliché.  

If you love the game of tennis and you enjoy a good drama/romance, you will undoubtedly like Challengers.  If you don't, you might still like the film, just not as much.  With excellent performances, it is natural for the audience to root for one or more of the three main actors. Still, you may also find yourself walking out of the theater angry at the characters while pitying them ever so slightly.  

In the end, I was left feeling unsatisfied, questioning all three characters' motivations and yet I wanted to see what happened next for these poor lost souls.

Grade: B+

Cast:
Directed By:
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 131 minutes
Distributed By: MGM Studios

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For more information about Challengers visit the FlickDirect Movie Database. For more reviews by Allison Rose please click here.

Challengers images are courtesy of MGM Studios. All Rights Reserved.


FlickDirect, Allison   Rose

Allison Rose, a Senior Correspondent and Critic at FlickDirect, is a dynamic presence in the entertainment industry with a communications degree from Hofstra University. She brings her film expertise to KRMS News/Talk 97.5 FM and broadcast television, and is recognized as a Tomatometer-Approved Critic. Her role as an adept event moderator in various entertainment industry forums underscores her versatility. Her affiliations with SEFCA, the Florida Film Critics Circle, and the Online Film Critics Society highlight her as an influential figure in film criticism and media.




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