Challengers – Movie Reviews by Ry!

Challengers – Matchpoint of Tennis and Heart

To look at life, we peak at things through a lens of wonder.  Through this lens, it builds towards a genuine feeling for certain moments.  Within these moments, it becomes a reflection of change … one that may drive us to become better than what we are today.  When it comes to film, these ponderous thoughts become a melding of genres, driven through a perspective of character.  To see genuine twist (on the familiar), it can provide an experience that will have you wondering … is that character just like me?  In this review, I look at a new character focused film.  Through a trip of memories and moments, we witness a journey that bends purpose through the eyes of worth.  With a strong cast, Challengers is an intriguing character piece that hits the tennis court with a twist of heart.

In a world of moments and pressure, a former tennis prodigy will challenge her husband to find his passion for tennis again, by facing against his ex-best friend.  As the trio come face-to-face in a long time, will Tasha (Zendaya), Art (Mike Faist) and Patrick (Josh O’Connor) be able to let go of the past and just … play tennis.  With film, there are certain aspects that pull the audience into the journey.  From action to comedy, the pull becomes an intuitive mixture of character and vision, drawing you on a path of delight or distraught.  For character-based films, the dynamic is hardened not by genre, but by the mutual grip between the characters themselves.  With this tale, we come into their world through a mixture of visual montages, tennis grafted moments and a ponderous thought about the relationship between the three individuals (Tasha, Art and Patrick).  Tasha is the tennis coach for her husband, Art, who is a well-renowned champion in the sport.  After a series of losses, Tasha believes that to get his ‘swagger’ back, she enters him into a Challenger event in New Rochelle, New York.  Paralleling their story is Patrick, who has struggled in his tennis career, enters the same event.  Through some convenient dialogue moments, the film begins with the finals: where Art faces off against Patrick.  This match becomes the main throughline for the whole film, providing the focal point within the non-linear directive.  With the match being this connective tissue, it is through a series of flashbacks, montages, and character perspectives that we learn about the trio’s backstory and their involvement in tennis since their teenage years.  Through the ‘back-and-forth’ of time, we witness the mystery unfold, watching how their close friendship led into a place of calamity.  As the finals match moves through each moment, it grafts the approach of characterization to the sport of tennis.  Within the dynamic of pressured situation, it is the details of each serve, match point and changing of position that cause a reflection of their own worth to each other.  Watching their careers evolve within remembrance provides the foundation that elevates the senses to understand the human flaws of potential in these tennis phenoms. 

As the match between Art and Patrick continues, the pressure to win is only heightened because of Tasha.  Being a spectator to their match, her low-key mentality brings about a wholesomeness to the current situation.  With her having to fall into the shadows of these two individuals, the flashbacks provide an explanation of her enduring passion (for the sport) while hinting at subtle manipulation for certainty.  Her reach becomes an ironic driving factor for both men, leading to the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of their current fragile relationship.  With the two men fighting for the win, we head into a third act where all the emotional overtures of the past bleeds into a fury on the tennis court.  This leads to a fulfilling climax and an epilogue that drives a heightened awareness of the character piece.  Challengers is a character film that rises above through technique and intent.  If you are a fan of character films, the actors involved or like non-linear storytelling, this is one for you.  I think there is enough here for a great night at the movies. 

Full Score – 4 out of 5 (Full Price)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *