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Destructively Seductive: "Challengers" REVIEW

by Robert Chica

Background :

Released on April 22, 2024, as Luca Guadagnino's (Call Me by Your Name & Bones and All) 7th directorial outing. Starring Zendaya (Dune), Mike Faist (West Side Story(2021)), and Josh O'Connor (The Crown). Original Score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and shot by cinematographer Sayombhu Makdeeprom. Original Screenplay by Justin Kuritzkes.


Mike Fasit and Zendaya in "Challengers"

(Warner Bros. Pictures/Amazon MGM Studio)

Plot Synopsis :

Tashi Duncan, a former tennis player turned coach for her husband, Art Donaldson, aims to end his losing streak by enrolling him in a challenger event. Unbeknownst to her, she sets him against his former best friend, Patrick Zweig, who was also once Tashi's boyfriend. This situation reveals the intricate dynamics that led the three of them to this moment.

(NO SPOILERS)


Mike Faist, left, and Zendaya in director Luca Guadagnino’s "Challengers." (Niko Tavernise/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc./TNS)

Review:


Challengers has truly become one of the more surprising films of the year for me. After watching the trailer, which almost came out a year ago, I assumed we were going to be prepared for a provocative and cliche film that was going to be lackluster and bland. We got the exact opposite of this assumption.


The Acting

Justin Kuritzkes understands how to write messed up but captivating characters, and Mike Fasit, Zendaya and Josh O'Connor know how to play them as he intended.


Zendaya unarguably gives her best big screen performance to date as Tashi Duncan, she truly has come a long way from her "Shake It Up" days, and this film shows not only her versatility but also how she can be a powerful and seductive character while also having undeniable chemistry with the two other leading men.


Josh O'Connor plays Patrick Zweig perfectly and I completely forgot he was British. O'Connor makes us, the audience, confused as if we should like him or not, and that is truly what makes his performance all the more interesting to watch.


Mike Faist hasn't had too many films to get us familiar with him yet, but this film proves that his name will appear much more often in the credits of great films. His quick and witty way of speaking along with O'Connor's facial expressions and Zendaya's line delivery elevates the well-written dialogue.


The Directing / Editing

Luca Guadagnino and Marco Costa, the editor, knew that they had a difficult job of capturing the intensity and tension felt between the two players on the court. The amount of POVs the film throws at us is astonishing and deserves all the attention it is getting, but without the aggressively fast, and in-your-face editing, it wouldn't make you feel as engaged feeling as if it was a real tennis match. Costa made the difficult-to-follow film so much simpler and rewarding to understand with his fast and timely jump cuts and transitions.


The Original Score

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross created possibly one of the best scores this year, so far. Their blend of pop and electric synth fits perfectly in intense and tame moments in the film. Although the score was a huge standout, I thought it did overlay over some dialogue which was not often but was distracting.


Overall

The film as a whole felt raw and fun to follow, with it being my favorite 2024 release of the year thus far, I think that this hip and steamy nature makes the film feel so rewarding to understand and you can get a kick out of some certain moments in the film that might make you either cringe, laugh, or feel for these characters. What I found weird, was the direction that they went with making all the characters toxic and horrible for each other, and the way the ending was so abrupt. Other than those flaws the film was nearly perfect for what it was: a look into an intimate and toxic relationship with dreams and love in the way.


I would recommend this film to someone looking for something intense and raunchy, but I would not watch it with a parent.


Rating: 9/10

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