Challengers Teases But Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

Challengers is a fast paced movie directed by Luca Guadagnino, starring Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor.

It’s a movie about ambition, rivalry, relationships, and the lengths people will go to in order to succeed in all three.

Zendaya plays womens tennis phenom Tashi Donaldson, a rising star in the tennis world. Mike Faist portrays Art Donaldson, and Josh O’Connor plays Patrick Zweig.

Art & Josh go to school together and are playing juniors doubles tennis as a duo dubbed “Fire and Ice. Tashi is one of the top female juniors players in the world, but isn’t ready to “go pro” yet, as she wants to get her degree because she doesn’t want her “only skill to be hitting a ball with a racket”.

Both boys are obsessed with Tashi, one quietly, and the other boldly and brashly. Tashi has a relationship with Patrick, while she is attending Stanford (where Art is also going to college) and Patrick is travelling the world o tour with the professional tennis players.

Patrick comes back to watch Tashi at her most important match in college, but due to a not so subtle instigating conversation initiated by Art with Tashi, regarding Patricks feelings (or lack of them) for her, Tashi and Patrick end up having a huge fight right before her match and she goes in playing angry. Patrick is nowhere to be found, having texted Art that he wasn’t coming because they had a big fight.

Tashi has a horrible accident on the court and blows out her knee, devastating her tennis career and her hopes and dreams of being a top professional player. Patrick tries to come swooping in to support her and she shuts him out, backed up by Art.

The film jumps back and forth in time from present to when the characters met as teens, and continues to jump back and forth in time throughout the movie. The back and forth jumps are handled well and relatively easy to follow.

The trio go their separate ways and meet up again in different situations through the years, with a major re-connection between Tashi and Art towards the middle. More jumps forward and backward in time reveal that Art is struggling in his tennis career, having won 3 of the 4 tournaments needed to win a “Grand Slam”, but recovering from a major surgery and having a hard time regaining his confidence.

Patrick had been successful but never hugely famous like Art, and while his family apparently has money, he sleeps in his car and uses his charm to cajole a half a breakfast sandwich from the lady signing players into the “challenger” game he has entered.

The movie started a bit slow, but does pick up speed, sort of like a tennis match itself with the back & forth in time. It gets intense in the last 45 minutes or so, and left me with questions that were not satisfactorily answered. Who is the father of Lily, Tashis daughter? Tashi is married to Art, but an unexpected meet up with Patrick at one of the tournaments matches the time line, in my head, for when the child might have been conceived. This was not a significant theme in the movie, but it popped in my head while watching the film and was never conclusively answered.

The ending had me on the edge of my seat literally, but I was unsatisfied with the actual final scene. Too many questions left unanswered. I want to know how it all ends up and whether any of the trio reconcile and if so, who.

Overall, it was entertaining and I am glad that we saw it on the big screen as I do not think it would have been as gripping viewing it in my living room.

I would give it 3 of 5 stars.

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