Challengers movie still
Zendaya , Josh O'Connor, Mike Faist in Challengers. (MGM Studios)

Challengers: All’s fair in love and tennis?

Reader Rating0 Votes

Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers” is a cinematic tour de force that not only dazzles with its stunning visuals and masterful direction but also shines brightly due to the exceptional performances from its cast and its shocking score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Guadagnino, who most audiences know for his Oscar-winning “Call Me By Your Name,” brings an electrifying vulnerability to the disjointed back-and-forth story of a once-promising tennis pro sidelined due to injury who lives her tennis dreams through her husband and her former lover. It’s delicious, sexy, thrilling, disgusting, harrowing, and tons of fun. 

Zendaya stars as Tashi, the tennis-wunderkind-turned-tennis-coach who masters getting what she wants from the two men who seem to keep showing up in her life. There’s Patrick (Josh O’Connor), a talented tennis player who forgoes college for his career and wins her love after defeating his best friend, Art (Mike Faist), in a tennis match. Art plays the long game and eventually gets to call Tashi not only his coach but his wife. The rivalry between Patrick and Art forms the throughline for all three characters’ lives, whether they want it or not. These are not redeemable people. They’re all misguided, flawed, and selfish, which makes the revolving story even more fun. 

CHALLENGERS | Official Trailer 2

“Challengers” may seem disjointed at first. Guadagnino builds it with an irreverent back-and-forth through its timeline, settling in for a scene twelve or thirteen years ago and then bouncing forward and back, like a tennis ball, seemingly out of nowhere. Once you’re settled in, though, it’s this constant thrust through their lives that leads to several edge-of-your-seat, will-they-won’t-they moments that are cleverly earned. Seriously, it’s so thrilling.  

Originally meant for a fall release last year in the perfect time for awards season, “Challengers” was pushed to this year to avoid the ongoing Hollywood strikes (if you’ve got Zendaya in your movie, you want her to be able to promote it!). Even still, there are certainly some awards-worthy pieces to this puzzle. All three stars give career-defining (so far) performances. That score is legendary. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s camerawork is unbelievable (for real, how did some of these tennis match sequences get made?). And the script is fresh, rich, and original. 

Currently playing at the Fargo Theatre, “Challengers” is one of those movies worth seeing at the cinema. You need to experience it on the big screen, with an audience, and without distraction. I’m going to go see it again.

Challengers movie still
Challengers (2024)
Awards-worthy performances and score
Challengers features three stars giving career-defining (so far) performances.
Overall Enjoyment
Music and Sound
Reader Rating0 Votes