The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

The student news site of Western Albemarle High School - Crozet, VA

The Western Hemisphere

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Cooper Shelton, Staff Writer • June 3, 2024
Dan Bledsoe and Cal Miller
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Sophie Mathew, Assistant Editor • May 31, 2024

Challengers Serves Up An Enticing Cinematic Experience

Zendaya+stars+in+a+tennis+throuple+alongside+Mike+Faist+and+Josh+OConnor.
Credit: Warner Bros.
Zendaya stars in a tennis throuple alongside Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor.

I just wanna see some good tennis,” Zendaya’s character, Tashi Duncan, remarks, superbly encapsulating the plot of Challengers in one sentence. It effectively makes tennis seem interesting, a job many thought impossible, by adding in elements of an accurate love triangle that spans decades.
Centered around the high-stakes world of professional tennis, the film weaves a complex narrative that shifts between past and present, exploring the tangled web of relationships between its three central characters – Tashi, Art (Mike Faist), and Patrick (Josh O’Connor). Zendaya’s electrifying performance as the commanding and manipulative Tashi is the heart of the film. She effortlessly commands the screen with her magnetic presence. The way she navigates the delicate balance of power, desire, and control within her relationships is endlessly fascinating, and I found myself constantly grappling with my own feelings about her character. It was weird to see Zendaya in a seemingly irredeemable role as I’m so used to her playing morally sound characters. It is a testament to her acting, though, as she is able to play a broad range of characters. Yet, as the film progresses, the cracks in her carefully cultivated facade begin to show, exposing a woman unable to fully control the whirlwind of emotions and circumstances swirling around her. I do admire the fact that she knew what she wanted the whole time and achieved it, as the final match was certainly a display of good tennis.
Luca Guadagnino uses ‘good tennis’ as the backdrop for the messy, intricate drama between Tashi, Art, and Patrick, allowing them an outlet to abandon all pretenses of niceties and leave everything on the court. The passion and emotion in each stroke almost seeps off the screen, leaving audiences bent forward eyes darting from left to right, tracing the movement of the ball. The relationship between Art and Patrick is most carefully represented on the court as, for the whole movie, the audience speculates about their relationship. I can absolutely, without a doubt, say that Patrick is down bad crying at the gym for Art, but who can actually blame him? Patrick’s feelings towards Art is his driving emotion in their culminating match, yet Art is left without anything to lose.
Guadagnino’s bold, stylized approach to the material is both a strength and a weakness of the film. The lush, sensual visuals and pulsing score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross create an immersive, dreamlike atmosphere that perfectly captures the heat and intensity of the tennis court. However, the director’s refusal to provide neat, tidy resolutions or clearly articulated themes can be frustrating at times. The film seems to revel in ambiguity, leaving the viewer to piece together its various narrative and thematic strands.
Despite this, I found myself captivated by the sheer audacity of “Challengers.” Guadagnino’s unwillingness to play by conventional storytelling rules and his commitment to exploring the messiness of human relationships and the pursuit of power makes for a truly unique cinematic experience. It’s the kind of film that burrows into your subconscious, leaving you with more questions than answers, but also with a lingering sense of exhilaration. I give this movie a resounding yeah (x10).

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About the Contributor
Sophie Mathew
Sophie Mathew, Assistant Editor
Sophie is a junior at Western and is excited for her second year in Journalism as a Sports Editor. In her free time she loves reading, being outside with her friends, laughing, and driving. She is also on the crew team and can be found on the reservoir in the early morning. Her favorite thing about Western is the football games and she hopes to attend more this year!
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