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  • Writer's pictureStephen Yanni

Challengers (2024) - Game, Set, Drama: The Tangled Net

Rating: ★★★½☆ (3.5/5 Stars)

Released 04-26-2024

Watched 04-27-2024

Reviewed 04-29-2024

Watched in the theater Using Cinemark Movie Club

"I think maybe you're disturbed by the fact that she could've been with someone like me."

"Challengers," directed by Luca Guadagnino, is a complex tapestry of love, betrayal, and competitive spirit, woven against the backdrop of professional tennis. The film stars Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O'Connor in a tangled narrative that attempts to serve up both drama and sports action but doesn't quite ace either.

The story revolves around a love triangle between Zendaya's Tashi Duncan, a former tennis prodigy, her husband Art Donaldson (Faist), and Patrick Zweig (O'Connor), Art's former doubles partner and long time friend. The narrative flips back and forth through time, presenting a nonlinear storyline that, while ambitious, which may leave viewers puzzled about the timeline. This choice complicates the viewing experience unnecessarily, detracting from the emotional weight of the story.

Performance-wise, the cast delivers adequately. Zendaya shines as Tashi, bringing depth and vulnerability to a character caught between past and present affections. Faist and O'Connor competently navigate their roles, capturing the competitive and emotional stakes of their intertwined lives. However, the chemistry between the characters feels inconsistent, occasionally making their complex relationships hard to buy into fully.

One of the film's more compelling aspects is its exploration of personal ambition and the sacrifices made for love and career. The tennis scenes are well-executed, with the final match providing a climactic blend of sports and personal drama. Yet, the film struggles to maintain this tension, often sidetracked by its convoluted plot structure.

"Challengers" also attempts to delve into themes of sexuality and identity, hinted at in the early interactions between the main characters. These elements, though, are not explored deeply enough to resonate, leaving them feeling more like plot devices rather than integral parts of the narrative.

The setting and cinematography deserve a nod, capturing both the grandeur of professional tennis stadiums and the more intimate moments of personal strife. The film’s score, while not particularly memorable, adequately supports the emotional landscapes the characters navigate.

Ultimately, "Challengers" feels like a missed opportunity. The film could have been a powerful drama but is hampered by its narrative choices and a somewhat superficial treatment of its central themes. Fans of Zendaya will likely appreciate her performance, but for those seeking a cohesive and engaging sports drama, the film might disappoint. It's a cinematic experience that might be more enjoyable from the comfort of one's home, where the remote control allows for pauses to untangle the story's timeline. Overall, "Challengers" earns a modest 3.5 stars out of 5, showing potential but not quite reaching its ambitious aims.

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