Zendaya plays the third wheel in one of the most intense love triangles in modern cinema.


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 Plot Summary

13 years. For 13 years, Tashi finds herself in the middle of something going on between Art and Patrick, two friends who have known each other since they were 12. All three are deeply embedded in tennis, and even when Tashi is unable to play anymore, she becomes a coach because it isn’t just a game to her; it’s an addiction, her first love, maybe the only thing she loves, with the exception potentially being her daughter.

But in those thirteen years, back and forth, Tashi, Art, and Patrick go from loving one another to hating one another until a small tournament, one no one likely has ever heard of, leads to either the final or the latest crescendo. Art needs a win just as much as Patrick and Tashi needs to see a good game. For after thirteen years, these boys have slowly but surely drained the life out of her, and boy, does everyone get what they need.

Content Information

  • Dialog: Cursing
  • Violence: A few slaps here and there
  • Sexual Content: Nudity, Sexual Situations (Implied)
  • Miscellaneous: Drinking, Smoking

Other Noteworthy Information

  1. Nudity context: It’s mostly male, front and back, and in terms of Zendaya, nothing beyond underwear, albeit with a sheer bra in one scene. Pretty much, barely beyond what she was comfortable with in “Malcolm & Marie.”
  2. Sexual content context: it’s implied in that it doesn’t show anyone doing anything past third-base (heavy petting and grinding), or we see them post-having sex.

Collected Quote(s)

  • “I’m just stopping by – this is where you live.” Art

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Could Patrick have been the father of Tashi’s child?

Characters and Cast Members

Character’s Name Actor’s Name
Tashi Zendaya
Art Mike Faist
Patrick Josh O’Connor

Character Description(s)

Tashi

Zendaya as Tashi
Zendaya as Tashi

At one time, someone who could have been the next Serena Williams, one injury in college ended her career and forced her to go from top player to most desired coach. It was a living but lacked excitement, and while she still built the empire expected of her when she was a tennis player, it may have been with the wrong man.

Art

Mike Faist as Art
Mike Faist as Art

Sweet and maybe too needing of validation, while Art can often come off like a boy scout, he has a darkness to him. One he doesn’t tap into too often, but both Tashi and Patrick have seen it, and depending on the situation, both sometimes prefer that version of Art over the persona who seems to be fine being submissive, someone’s number 2, if not puppet.

Patrick

Josh O'Connor as Patrick and Mike Faist as Art
Josh O’Connor as Patrick and Mike Faist as Art

Rich, charming, but also careless. Patrick is the one you look to if you want a good time, not someone to stick around for a long time, and he has embraced this. At times, like when thinking about Tashi, he may wish this wasn’t the life he built for himself, but there is something about feeling like the underdog who got the bone that does something for him. For half the fun is the challenge.

Review

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

Good If You Like

  • Intense love triangles

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Notable Performances or Moments

Zendaya

Zendaya stands out because Tashi is complicated in ways that make you always unsure how to feel about her. It could be easy to hate her for how she manipulates Art, who worships the ground she works on, as Patrick challenges and stimulates her into exasperation. Yet, at the same time, here she is, a former tennis player who loves the game and has an intense passion for it, and yet she finds herself in this cycle with two average, potentially mediocre players who never took the game as seriously as she did or does.

However, while she went to college and wanted something outside of tennis, that never manifested; she is trapped in this world where she can’t be the best, so she has to be a spectator at worst or someone who trains people with potential at best. It’s easy to understand her frustration and why she has made it so, if she can’t play tennis on a court, she will in her life and bring that intensity, bring the mind games, and push for that feeling she had on the court when she was in full body ecstasy.

For why live unless you are chasing that high or at the very least, seeking to go against someone who can bring you close?

A Peer vs. A Fan

When you discuss Tashi’s relationships with Art and Patrick, the interesting thing is how torn you see her. Patrick sees himself as her equal, her peer, and Art is someone who is a fan of hers and worships her. You can see neither give her what she needs in one whole package.

Does Tashi like to be challenged? Yes, for who wants a pushover for a partner? You want someone who will call you out, debate you, and have high expectations but also show up and comfort you when giving your best doesn’t lead to the results you wanted.

Now, is this to say Tashi never appreciated Art? No. He is a good father and has always credited her for his success, but he lacks drive. He’s submissive in a way that is like being with a child always seeking your approval, and even when Art makes a decision, that effort takes so much out of him that he needs to feed from Tashi to recover.

It’s probably one of the strangest dynamics we have ever seen with a woman in the middle, and like so much of “Challengers,” it makes me expect more from whatever I see next.

Art and Patrick’s Relationship

There is something homo-erotic at times about Art and Patrick. They have this intensity between them that Tashi sees and even plays with, which leads to both men voraciously making out with one another. It’s odd in a way, for while Patrick might be bi, and Art has moments that raise an eyebrow, neither seemingly took advantage of how much alone time they have had with one another to explore or even pursue something.

Instead, they have this rivalry, this brotherhood, this passion between them, like twins who have battled for survival since the womb yet still love each other deeply.

People use the word “Bromance” in a comical way a lot, but considering how Art and Patrick’s relationship can go from erotic and combative to supportive, loving to hateful, there be a sense of longing to envy, and so many other extreme and volatile emotions, that somehow all settle into a sense of love, again, these “Challengers” sets precedents. For while by no means an erotic thriller, you could easily have imagined the film going in that direction.

The Soundtrack

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross made a score that elevates any and nearly all scenes. Mostly unremarkable tennis matches? Add a song. Need to punch up a scene between any of the main three? Throw in a song. It’s like that for two hours, and while I am not taking away from anything Tashi, Art, or Patrick do or go through, it becomes all the more intense because of the added industrial rock or metal. 

I’d even say that while the performances are notable, it is the soundtrack/score you’ll want more of than anything else, for it will make it hard until your high comes down to listen to anything else without grimacing. 

Highlights

The Tennis

Admittedly, the first tennis matches in the movie weren’t great. They lacked intensity and style and, like most sports, seemed far more fun to play than to watch. However, as someone who used to watch wrestling weekly, I know that part of what makes any type of sport, whether with planned finishes like WWE or one that relies on skill and athleticism, interesting is the story behind each player.

So as you learn Art’s story, as you learn Patrick’s, and then see Tashi play her role, and then you have Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ music layered on top of the grunts and moans as the ball goes back and forth, you get into the match.

I’d even say, not to be crude, but the back and forth of Art and Patrick’s tennis matches were probably more sexual than either one of their scenes with Tashi. For while Tashi is never pushed to simply be a prize both men are fighting for, again, there is something between them that, as the movie goes on, seems to build as if most of the film was courting, teasing, subtle gestures they thought no one saw, and the final set is them being uninhibited and just going at each other.

On The Fence

The Amount Of Time Jumping

Our only problem with the film is that it jumps so much in time. Yes, it will give you an idea of when it goes to the past, but as for when it goes to the present? Unless you see Tashi’s daughter or a handful of signs that we’re back in August 2019, which is modern-day for the film, it’s not difficult to get lost and be forced to see everything as backstory before Art and Patrick’s tennis rematch. 

Background Information

Film Length 2 Hours 11 Minutes
Date Released April 26, 2024
Where To Watch In Theaters
Director(s) Luca Guadagnino
Writer(s) Justin Kuritzkes
Based On Work By N/a
Genre(s) DramaRomanceYoung AdultLGBT+Sports
Content Rating Rated R

Listed Under Categories: , ,


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Challengers (2024) Movie Review

Summary

Fully taking note, this movie left me with a high, it can seem like the score is overrated. However, believe me when I say it isn’t. While not perfect, “Challengers,” in a sea of films that mostly are just bound to be content for a streaming service, truly stands out because it wants you to feel, be invested, and not just have something that can qualify as mindless entertainment to escape whatever is going on in your life.

And while I won’t go so far as to say this deserves accolades beyond the soundtrack, I think it will be a jewel in the filmographies of the actors named, surely justifying challenging and further notable work.

Overall
85%
85%
  • Zendaya - 87%
    87%
  • A Peer vs. A Fan - 85%
    85%
  • Art and Patrick’s Relationship - 88%
    88%
  • The Soundtrack - 93%
    93%
  • The Tennis - 82%
    82%
  • The Amount Of Time Jumping - 76%
    76%
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User Review
0/100 (0 votes)

Highlight(s)

  • The Tennis
  • Art and Patrick’s Relationship
  • A Peer vs. A Fan
  • Zendaya
  • The Soundtrack

Disputable

  • The Amount Of Time Jumping

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