‘Challengers’ movie review: Advantage Zendaya in this risqué romance 

A scene from ‘Challengers’

The visceral realm of tennis is intensely depicted in the cinematic work ‘Challengers’ by director Luca Guadagnino. The film vividly captures every grunt and aggressive swing of the racquet, and the emotional turmoil intertwined with the sport. Complementing these striking visuals is a dynamic soundtrack courtesy of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the same duo celebrated for their work on ‘The Killer’, which vibrates with pulsating techno rhythms and brooding orchestral waves.

Entangling a complex series of timelines, ‘Challengers’ weaves the story of three distinctive tennis talents – the spirited Tashi, portrayed by Zendaya, and her two loyal companions, Patrick (played by Josh O’Connor) and Art (Mike Faist), spanning from their youthful days to their mature thirties. In the narrative’s current setting, we find Art and Tashi not only as a couple but also as a formidable force in the tennis circuit, with the pair luxuriating in their successful lives and Art making his return to the competitive arena post an injury.

The plot further intensifies as Art, under Tashi’s coaching, struggles with self-assurance despite being on the cusp of clinching a grand slam title. To bolster his confidence, he is granted a wildcard entry into a Challenger series in New Rochelle, New York. Meanwhile, Patrick, once part of the tight-knit trio, now finds himself entangled in a string of lower-tier tournaments, a stark contrast to the luxurious life of Art and Tashi.

Challengers (English)

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Cast: Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, Mike Faist, AJ Lister, Nada Despotovich

Run-time: 131 minutes

Storyline: An intimate journey through the lives, loves, and careers of three tennis prodigies

The story takes us back to their adolescent years, showcasing Tashi’s ascension as a tennis phenomenon and the companionship between Patrick and Art as doubles partners. When the trio crosses paths at a social event, a romantic rivalry blossoms, with Tashi teasingly promising her phone number to the victor of the following day’s match. Despite friendly pacts, the competition for her affection proves fierce.

Their roads diverge as Tashi and Art pursue athletics at Stanford, while Patrick ventures into the professional tennis circuit. When an injury derails Tashi’s career, she remains tethered to the sport through various roles, but the question lingers—would her drive and intensity manifest the same way in any other profession?

In ‘Challengers’, the attractive and skilled trio engage in a riveting performance that transfixed viewers. Zendaya is especially stunning, flawlessly embodying the resilient and charming Tashi, while O’Connor’s portrayal of Patrick, radiates authenticity as someone willing to sacrifice all for affection. This is a riveting depiction of love, rivalry, camaraderie, and the competitive zest of tennis, serving as a visual treat that is bound to spur endless discussions. Prepare for a dazzling display; the film delivers a winning combination of on-screen glamour and emotional depth.

‘Challengers’ is currently available for viewing in theaters.

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