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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

‘Challengers’ proves love means nothing

Double partners doesn’t mean forever
(L-R) Art Donaldson (Mike Faist), Tashi Duncan (Zendaya) and Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor) sitting on a bed in the hotel room before their tennis match. The three tennis prodigies are part of the complicated love triangle featured throughout the film. (Photo courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Light spoilers below

In matchpoint suspense and recurring drama the tennis film “Challengers” is composed of talented characters, melodrama manipulation and hidden details.

“Challengers” is a romance drama film following the actions of the virtuous tennis player turned coach Tashi Duncan and her complicated love triangle. Tashi is played by the skillful actress Zendaya, who does an exceptional job of capturing the truly cunning side of Tashi throughout her life.

The plot of this movie has a unique aspect to it that can feel a little complicated to follow at times due to its back-and-forth timeline and quick jump cuts. The majority of the film takes place during one riveting challenger match that is quite exciting when you learn who the characters playing are and how they are all connected.

The casting of Zendaya is an amazing choice as the character’s natural beauty and talent are supposed to bring men to their knees, specifically the two men, Art Donaldson and Patrick Zweig, played by Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor.

Art and Patrick are two lifelong friends and tennis partners who unfortunately, due to their spiteful lust for Tashi, ruin their friendship with multiple backstabbing actions and words throughout the film’s back-and-forth timeline.

Although this film is categorized as a sports film, rather than focusing on the trials and tribulations of three tennis prodigies, director Luca Guadagnino and writer Justin Kuritzkes, tell the destructive reality of how far friends will go to compete over the appraisal of one young girl.

The love trope of one girl choosing between two men is one that is often seen in fictional films like “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games” and “The Notebook,” but is a trope rarely explored within the sports genre. Tashi is one lucky lady to have two talented and attractive men competing for over 20 years for her love and appraisal, but she is not naive to the power she holds.

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What makes this unique is that the film’s lead is the villain of the story, it becomes clear that even though Tashi continues to defend her actions, her controlling and projecting nature makes her the antagonist of this film.

The story unfolds like the rallying nature of a tennis match as the plot flips between present and past stories. This gives viewers the suspense and context needed for the climatic match point serve.

Outside of the compelling plot, “Challengers” is a film where viewers can’t help but notice the amazing attention to detail and cinematography aspects that make this film even more outstanding.

The camera work cannot go unmentioned. The choice to use the tennis ball as a camera during the match was an exceptional idea and each hit of the racket let viewers feel like they were just as invested in the game as the characters.

Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor) and Tashi Duncan (Zendaya) in an intense lovers stand-off. The relationship between Patrick and Tashi is one that truly leaves viewers confused. (Photo courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Another fascinating technical detail was its purposeful music selection driven by the back-and-forth nature of Tashi and her seduction of the two men. Rather than filling the time with devious dialogue, this film uses the asset of music to strengthen its plot.

Tashi and Patrick have an intense instrumental beat, while Art and Tashi have a more melancholic melody to illustrate the nature of each relationship both men have with her.

The soundtrack of the film is composed by the artists Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross and Boys Noize, who compose house techno beats that help accompany the film’s fierce theme.

Although this film is driven by its musical playlist, at times it can feel a little hard to follow due to the distracting nature of the techno-rave-like beats that almost feel like, are thumping right out of the screen.

The relationship between Patrick and Art is the most interesting connection of the film, as the two are willing to turn on each other despite their long history of being doubles in tennis.

A friendship as strong as theirs seems almost impenetrable in the beginning, but as Tashi uses her wit to lure the boys into her dark side of manipulation you see how quickly the two will turn.

Tashi proposes, after a night of teasing kisses, that whichever boy wins the match will have her number and, ultimately, her. This is a recurring theme throughout the entire movie, as the boys compete time after time for her attention.

Surprisingly enough, the film all about tennis rarely includes scenes of tennis. The themes of betrayal and control are mostly featured throughout, with scenes such as Tashi breaking her knee, coaching Art and her continuous infidelity.

There are also a lot of scenes of nudity within this film, which at times feels quite unnecessary and a little uncomfortable for viewers with how much is shown.

The suspenseful ending will leave viewers enhanced by the intricate details of secret eye contact and head movements that prove even in tennis the chemistry of doubles exists on and off the tennis court.

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About the Contributors
Katelyn Marano
Katelyn Marano, Copy Editor
(she/her) Katelyn Marano is a graduating senior with a major in journalism and a minor in English. She is currently in her second semester here at The State Hornet and is the copy editor for the spring 2024 semester. Katelyn enjoys reading and writing, and hope to take her degree into book publishing.
Angelica Vera-Franco
Angelica Vera-Franco, Bilingual Copy Editor
Angelica Vera-Franco is a fourth-year journalism & political science major with a minor in Spanish. She joined The State Hornet as a Spanish staffer and is returning as the bilingual copy editor. She hopes to continue working towards a career as a journalist.
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