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Challengers Review: Zendaya Starrer Is a Sexy, Intimate and Dramatic Love Triangle

When the trailer of Challengers was released, all everyone could talk about was the jaw-dropping threesome scene featuring Zendaya, Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist. Looking back at the scene after watching the film, it seems like a reflection of the climax scene, only that sex is replaced by tennis. It’s at this point when you realise what a well-crafted film Challengers is.

Challengers, as we know it, is about three young tennis aspirants. Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor) and Art Donaldson (Mike Faist) are longtime friends and tennis partners. As they prepare to face each other in a singles match, they meet Tashi Duncan (Zendaya), a prodigy who is fire on the tennis court. Both men are instantly head over heels for her. Impressed with their admiration, she decides to date the person who wins the singles final. It is led to believe that Patrick wins and he and Tashi start dating. Art is obviously jealous and finds the right moment to swoop in.

Meanwhile, her passion for tennis begins to come between their off-court time and it causes ripples in their relationship. To make things worse, Tashi injures herself on the court, resulting in her foregoing her aspirations to become a successful tennis player. She decides to take up coaching and turns into Art’s coach. Their partnership goes beyond the court and we see them married. As years go by, Art begins to lose his edge in the game and Tashi pushes him to participate in the Challengers tournament when the trio crosses paths again. Who will win the tournament? It’s not an easy answer. But what I can answer is that yes, Challengers is worth your money.

The film’s biggest highlight is the beautiful, layered script and screenplay writing. Director Luca Guadagnino and writer Justin Kuritzkes come together to present a fresh take on dramatic sports films. “Tennis is like a relationship,” says Zendaya in the film and that’s exactly how the filmmaker has shown it. Challengers is a raw love triangle with tennis being the primary lover. The romanticising of a game is a rare sight on screen and it was an interesting vision.

Challengers shows all the characters in grey and not once you hate either of them, a rarity in a love triangle. What I find all the more interesting is that the ball was in everyone’s court at some point in the film, giving all three characters a brilliant story arc.

The writing is supported by outstanding performances. Zendaya reminds everyone why she’s among the best in the industry. There isn’t a single scene that she doesn’t ace. Her chemistry with all three – Josh, Mike and tennis – is intimate, steamy and intense.

Josh O’Connor levelled up with Zendaya on most parts of the film. He uses his charm to grab your attention and even steals the spotlight from Mike in some scenes. Meanwhile, Mike comes across as weak in the film. Although at the beginning of the film he holds the attention despite Zendaya and Josh in the frame, as the film branches out and puts the spotlight on him, he falls short. He returns to form in the climax scene. I didn’t feel any chemistry between him and Zendaya, even when they are supposed to be falling for each other. I wish a few more scenes showing their bond could have been added to truly leave audiences in a fix over whose side to take – Art or Patrick.

Another issue I had with the film was the camera work. Cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, best known for Call Me By Your Name, gets the intimate scenes perfectly but when the cameras pan towards the ground, he tries to experiment with a few scenes which don’t land well and only affect the flow of the viewing experience. The film also needed more time on the editing table. Editor Marco Costa and the director leave you confused with timelines and match results in most parts of the film. I wish that would have been ironed out a little more.

Nevertheless, watch Challengers for it boasts of great performances, hot chemistry and layered writing.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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