Challengers wins the match on the big screen

Sat. April 13, 2024 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

It's a game, set and match for the sports movie Challengers. Even though the three main cast members identify as straight in real life their characters have plenty of gay antics that are conveyed cinematically thanks to out and proud Italian director Luca Guadagnino.

The story begins with very little dialogue and then picks up the pace with a complicated love triangle that causes ripple effects over the years. There are longtime friendships involved and a bromance of sorts found with a trio of talented performers. The riveting Zendaya plays Tashi Donaldson who was a tennis star in her own right until fate changes her life and she marries Art Donaldson played by Mike Faist.

Art's longtime friend Patrick Zweig, portrayed by Josh O'Connor, smashes himself back into their lives as a blast from the past both off and on the courts. Things pick up pace quickly and Challengers time jumps all over the place like a tennis ball.

There are powerful electronic beats by industrial music composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to energize the visually striking scenes and ensure the playoffs never drag.

The show's real star is Luca and he's at an advantage thanks to successful previous projects such as Call Me by Your Name and Suspiria. Challengers is more digestible than Bones and All was in 2022 and this talented filmmaker continues to grow in leaps and bounds.

The gay couple checking in to the hotel during a brief scene deserves a spinoff and a queer perspective that is woven into the plot in unexpected ways. In the wrong hands, the stereotypes displayed could be offensive, but instead, there's a familiarity with a gay husband fawning over a guy publicly with humor.

Guadagnino has now used Zendaya and Timothee Chalamet as his muses and is slated to direct Daniel Craig for the film adaptation of William S. Burroughs' novel Queer. Everything is coming up roses for the man from Palermo these days and the future looks even brighter.

Challengers is a playful romp that uses tennis as a backdrop to catapult the relationships of these three complicated individuals in unexpected directions. Keep your eye on the ball!

Challengers is preparing for a grand slam at the box office starting on April 26, 2024.