The Student News Site of Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School

The Edison Light

The Student News Site of Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School

The Edison Light

The Student News Site of Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School

The Edison Light

“Challengers”

2024 romantic sports drama “Challengers” leaves a lot for viewers to unpack and very little left to the imagination.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino and featuring well-respected stars Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor, the movie tells a tantalizing tale of two young male tennis prodigies whose larger-than-life bond is fatally severed by their love for one fierce and unstoppable celebrity tennis star. Sounds like an emotional rollercoaster, huh? Well, I can assure you it was. 

This was a hilarious yet gut-wrenching and painfully suspenseful story that grabbed me and everyone I went to see it with by the heartstrings and didn’t let go until the very end. Not to mention this movie left my jaw dropping practically onto my seat at every twist, turn, and serve.

What really drew me in about “Challengers” from the get-go is the incredible characterization that is shown from the very beginning of the film. The inseparable (or so it seemed) bond of our two main male characters is a focal point of the first half of the show and can be felt from the very first time they share the screen together. 

But before this in the very first scene of the film, set in the present, Art Donaldson is a mellow and almost puppyish Grand Slam champ and the husband of well-known former tennis icon Tashi Duncan, whose career was tragically ended by a devastating (and oh, so hard to watch) injury. Art’s success and prospects as a tennis player are tanking just as quickly as his love for the sport– not to mention, just as quickly as his marriage.

On the other end of the love triangle, Patrick Zweig is a venerated and higher-ranked tennis champ who, despite being rich and well-respected, seems to live the life of a poor man. He also happens to be Tashi’s ex-boyfriend, the two having briefly dated in college and unable to get rid of each other since (although, it never fully seems as though they wanted to). Art and Patrick reconnect in the present day thanks to a challenger tournament in New Rochelle, NY that Art enters to try and regain his footing and status as a top-class tennis player.

Before this, Art and Patrick were simply two lively 18-year-old boys working their way up in the world of tennis. Not to mention, they were the absolute closest of friends (and as suggested early on in the movie, definitely something more). In their first scenes together, their vibrant dynamic practically jumps out the screen. My personal favorite of their flashback scenes is when Patrick is giving an energetic piggyback ride around the tennis court after a major duo victory and then they fall on the ground together laughing. Pure bliss. The calm before the storm.

Then we have the storm: Tashi Duncan. Tashi truly is a storm on and off the court: a master of persuasion, red-hot bombshell, and explosion of passion whether she’s berating a ball with a racket or berating one of her “little white boys” with her words. The boys meet Tashi at a party after one of her games and before you know it, they’re hooked– perched on the edge of the bed in their dorm on either side of her eagerly waiting for her commands. 

Art and Patrick’s friendship is severed seemingly for good when Patrick wins over Tashi and begins dating her, much to the dismay of a jealous Art. The tides are quickly turned when after an unfortunate blur of events, Patrick is shunned out of their life and many years later, Art ends up married to Tashi. How that plays out– you’re gonna have to watch the movie to find out.

My biggest complaint about Challengers and the main reason I feel a lot of viewers complained about the movie is that way-more-complex-than-needed timeline. This movie jumps all over the place like a ball around a tennis court and every time skip and flashback becomes more insufferable than the last. By the time the second half of the movie rolled around, every flashback was met with audible frustration and “Ughhh”’s from the audience. 

Now, the time skips aren’t the problem- it’s the order they precede in. The film will show you present day, then jump backwards for a bit to a past scene but not show you everything that happened, then jump forward again back to present day, then jump back again but not to the same flashback as before that it never finished… Then way later on, it’ll FINALLY finish that one flashback from about 30 minutes ago. It’s a lot to take in.

Also, the movie does a lot of dancing around the topic of race and class dynamics but never really goes all in when I wish it would. There’s a line where Tashi tells Patrick “I’m doing such a great job taking care of my little white boys” and then another line where she calls one of her opponents racist, but that’s it. I’ve seen a lot of viewers mention that they feel the former was unnecessary considering this movie is nowhere near political and doesn’t touch on social issues like racism any further than that. It’s really just an afterthought in the middle of the movie that is immediately thrown to the side after, and even as a black individual who loves to see issues of race/class touched on, this movie in particular could’ve done without it.

What I did absolutely LOVE about “Challengers” and what makes me want to watch this movie over and over again is the bone-chilling drama these actors bring in Every. Single. Scene. The piercing level of emotion all three stars, especially Zendaya, display alongside the vibes created by the production team kept me on the edge of my seat constantly.

From beginning to end, “Challengers” is an absolute masterpiece of a drama with a story that even despite the confusing choppiness, will leave your jaw on the floor, leave you salivating, and leave you thinking for weeks to come all at once. I give it an 8.5/10– 100% recommend even if you aren’t a fan of tennis; This movie is sure to turn you into one!

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