Travels With JB

Travels With JB

Travel news and reviews

Love triangles have provided fodder for many movies over the years but few have the physical exertion of Challengers.

From left  Mike Faist (Art), Zendaya (Tashi) and Josh O’Connor (Patrick) star in director Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film.  Photo Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures
© 2023 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures.

The latest movie from director Luca Guadagnino tells of a 13-year relationship between former tennis prodigy turned coach Tashi (Zendaya) and childhood friends and tennis rivals Patrick (Josh O’Connor) and Art (Mike Faist).

There’s plenty of tension, emotion, sexual innuendo and sweat on and off the tennis court.

Through current day events and flashbacks we learn that Patrick and Art have been friends since they were 12 when they met while boarding at an elite tennis academy.

Mike Faist (Art) and Josh O’Connor (Patrick). *

Both were talented players, winning junior double championship tournaments together, although it seems Patrick was always the better player.

The two first come in contact with Tashi, a brilliant young tennis player who has chosen to play college tennis rather than turn professional, at a party to celebrate her tournament victory.

Patrick has long had a crush on the seriously talented, beautiful Tashi and, after watching her play and meeting her, Art develops similar feelings. What follows is the battle over the years between the two to win the heart of the woman they both love and the impact of her ambition and drive on them.

Mike Faist (Art) and Zendaya (Tashi). *

It doesn’t take Tashi long to realise the power she has over the two hormone-filled young men. She also quickly recognises the special relationship and friendship the boys share. This becomes obvious in a much-publicised scene from the movie when the three end up in a hotel room together.

While Tashi initially has a relationship with Patrick, Art is always in the background hoping and occasionally plotting for the two to break up. An argument between Tashi and Josh followed by a serious knee injury which destroys Tashi’s dream of a tennis career sees her team up with Art on and off the court They marry and have a child and she becomes his tennis coach and manager.

The movie starts in the present day when Art, who has won numerous tournaments around the world with the exception of the US Open, is experiencing a losing streak and has seemingly lost some of his drive to be a top tennis player.

In an attempt to boost his confidence Tashi persuades him to enter an inferior ATP Challenger Tour tennis tournament which he would be expected to easily win. What she doesn’t count on is Patrick also entering the tournament.

Zendaya( Tashi) and Josh O’Connor ( Patrick). *

As we quickly discover Patrick’s life on the tennis circuit is very different to that of Art’s.  Unlike Art and Tashi who have all the trimmings that come with being tennis royalty, Patrick hasn’t got any money and is basically living out of his car. Yet despite this he hasn’t lost any of his confident swagger.

Unexpectedly Art and Patrick end up in the final of the Challenger tournament which brings to the fore theirs and Tashi’s loves, losses,  infidelities and desires. While such a description may suggest Challengers is a serious drama, thanks to the performance of the stars, the cinematography and script this isn’t the case.

There are numerous humorous scenes often resulting from the sexual and sensual tension between the three which Zendaya, O’Connor and Faist brilliantly bring to the screen through both their actions and words.

Josh O’Connor (Patrick). *

O’Connor’s Patrick is brash and cocky while Faist’s Art is more subdued and thoughtful but also at times quietly manipulative. Both show their strong will to win although on that front Zendaya’s Tashi is far and away the club house leader! Similarly, while both men do try and manipulate certain situations, they’re no match for Tashi.

As well as their words all three actors are required to show their thoughts through actions which O’Connor and Faist do very effectively especially on the tennis court and Zendaya in numerous scenes. Very often a look from one of the three conveys far more than words ever could.

While Challengers is far more a movie about relationships than tennis all three present as realistic tennis players. The filming of the final grudge match between Patrick and Art is exceptional with a range of techniques used to show both the physical and emotional impact of the match on both men. Such is this presentation that audience members may well feel as exhausted as the players look, further enhancing Challengers’ credentials as an engrossing and entertaining addition to the love triangle movie genre.

Challengers opens in Australian cinemas on April 18.

*Photo credit: Niko Tavernise. © 2024 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

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