• Tue. May 28th, 2024

CHALLENGERS – For Every Ace, It Hits a Double Fault…

ByTaylor T Carlson

Apr 12, 2024

CHALLENGERS is directed by Luca Guadagnino. The film stars Zendaya, Mike Faist, and Josh O’Connor.

Patrick Zweig and Art Donaldson have been friends from a young age, both teaming up and competing on the tennis court. One thing the duo has always had in common is their love and admiration for the same woman – Tashi Duncan, a former youth prodigy turned coach when an injury forced her off the court. As the two men’s lives go in very different directions and levels of success, they find themselves back on the court again, with Duncan on the sidelines as her suitors compete. What’s to come for the duo?

When it comes to filmmakers, there’s no one quite like Luca Guadagnino. His films are… unique to say the least. From forbidden same-sex romances to tales of cannibals, it seems like there’s nothing this guy won’t do… and he puts his stamp on everything he does. CHALLENGERS is the latest film from Mr. Guadagnino, which features some great performances, particularly by Zendaya, who gives what might be the best role of her career to date. Unfortunately, the movie is plagued by a sloppy, difficult-to-follow non-chronological narrative that does more harm than good.

I’ll give the film praise for the things it does well. The movie covers many time periods and the production values are top notch, with careful attention to detail in each setting. This story is a work of fiction, yet feels completely authentic and true to life despite this. The casting is perfect, with the principal cast being a love triangle of sorts. To call CHALLENGERS an intense film would be an understatement; one minute it can be one of the funniest films you’ve ever seen, and the next it can be a bitter, hard-hitting drama for all involved. Seeing Zendaya grow up on the screen has been a pleasure the last few years, and with Tashi Duncan, she may have found the best role of her career, requiring her to go into some territory in all ends of the spectrum we haven’t seen before. A Best Actress nomination would be well deserved.

CHALLENGERS has humor, drama, romance, shocking elements, and a great cast and performance. Unfortunately, the film is derailed by a non-chronological narrative that’s nearly impossible to keep up with. Having flashbacks in a film can be a good thing, fleshing out characters and motivation. But the flashbacks in CHALLENGERS are far too frequent, with the film constantly confused about what direction it wants to go in. It seems like ever since Quentin Tarantino made a career out of non-chronological storytelling, every other filmmaker has to try to do the same, though other filmmakers do so with mixed results. One of the other critics who overheard my comments regarding this sloppy narrative claimed it was “a metaphor for tennis.” This theory holds weight, but unfortunately, doesn’t mean that the movie will be accessible or fun to watch for mainstream audiences despite all it does well.

I liked CHALLENGERS; Zendaya gives the performance of her career, and the movie certainly earns its R rating with its intensity. But I don’t see why this had to be a non-chronological story buried in flashbacks that had no idea where it wanted to go. Luca Guadagnino is a great filmmaker; that’s undeniable and has been proven many a time. CHALLENGERS would’ve been an ace had it been chronological with occasional flashbacks, but with the film buried in them, it continues to hit double faults. Moderately recommended to lovers of film, but I don’t think this one will connect with everyday moviegoers.

By Taylor T Carlson

Taylor T Carlson Assistant Editor/Senior Staff Writer Taylor T. Carlson was born August 17, 1984, and has called the Vegas Valley home his entire life. A die-hard fan of classic rock and metal music, Taylor has been writing album and concert reviews since he was 16 years old, and continues to do so, having done well over 1,000 reviews. He is also a fan of video gaming and cinema, and has reviewed a number of games and films as well, old and new alike. His thorough and honest (some would say brutally honest) reviewing style has won him the respect of hundreds of music fans and musicians alike, both local and abroad, and the ire of just as many others. Despite being one of the youngest attendees at classic hard rock/metal shows around Vegas, he is also one of the most knowledgeable, having gained the unofficial nickname of “The Eddie Trunk of Las Vegas.” In addition to reviews, Taylor has written and self-published three books on classic hard rock bands, and is a regular participant in rock and roll trivia contests. Taylor also holds a masters degree in special education from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and has appeared on the hit History Channel television series Pawn Stars. His dream is to be able to one day make a living from writing music books and reviews.

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