Challengers | Third Space
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Challengers

Love - Love - Love - Game
Thu 18 Apr 2024

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⭐️ ⭐️ 1/2 (out of 5)

Luca Guadagnino is a film maker who has developed his profile by making films that skirt the controversial edge. His penchant for provocation has afforded him with the attention of acting talent clamouring after his projects. As a film maker he doesn’t shy away from topics that are provocative and somewhat disturbing, from cannibalism to sexual awakenings to witchcraft. The Italian director seems to know no limits to potential storyline boundaries. His latest project involves a love triangle within the tennis community between some of Hollywood’s up-and-coming young talent. This premise may not sound that cutting edge until the escapades of these three manage to go beyond the limits of the majority of Guadagnino's other screenplays.

All the world sat at the feet of tennis protege, Tashi Duncan (Zendaya), who has prospects to make her family rich for the foreseeable future. Every female player wants to be her and every male player wants to know her off the court. She keeps all her foes and prospective love interests at bay until she meets Patrick Zweig (Josh O'Connor) and Art Donaldson (Mike Faist). These double players do their best to win her over, and the three of them end up in this twisted tale of love, tennis and friendship that spans decades. Their paths take different trajectories when Tashi is injured and becomes Art’s coach and wife. Yet, their relationship continually crosses paths with Patrick as the three find themselves on opposite sides of the court from one another at an unassuming tournament that has the potential to expose all of thier past secrets.

Despite having an exceptional eye for cinematography and a penchant for masterfully jumbled timelines, Guadagnino knows how to take the sexual tension across the line and to keep going well after the line judge has called the game. Viewers might expect this film to be primarily about tennis. In actuality, the story is less about the beloved game and more about the darker side of the human condition. Specifically, this screenplay is about loyalty between friends, the depths athletes will go to to win, and the unhealthy effects of codependency. Still, each of these elements is influenced by sexual manipulation between all three characters, who find themselves in one another’s beds on more than one occasion.

Challengers proves to be the best depiction of tennis in cinema. The Italian director shows his visual mastery when the drama is on the tennis court. He manages to get the most out of his actors and makes each set count. Unfortunately, outside of the portrayla of the game, the storyline is messy, depressing, and unbelievable as the years progress in this sports narrative. Luca Guadagnino is like a coach who gets overly involved in his players game. Even with the exceptional talent of each actor, the constant timeline changes and unrealistic relational tensions become too distracting and drawn out for anyone to care how things turn out in the end. Zendaya, O'Connor, and Faist bring their A game, but the story fails to help them believe they can make it to the end of this tale in winning form.

REEL DIALOGUE: How far can you take loyalty?

Loyalty is both fascinating and confusing. It is defined as being faithful to something or someone. People will put their money, careers and lives on the line for the sake of loyalty to family, friends or countries. In Challengers, the characters base most of their decisions on misguided acts of friendship. It begs the question, why do we choose to be loyal or faithful to someone else?

It is rooted in wanting to implicitly trust the person we put our faith in and knowing that this loyalty will be reciprocated. The Bible gives a deeper meaning to the idea of loyalty. In studying these words and evaluating human history, God is the only one completely faithful. He is faithful even when his followers are faithless. Regarding loyalty, mankind's faithfulness can be fleeting. Still, we can find absolute loyalty and someone trustworthy in their word rather than God.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. - Proverbs 18: 24

If you would like to discuss themes from Challengers, reach out to us at Third Space. We would love to chat with you about this and more.

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