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'Challengers' Review

LightsCameraJackson LightsCameraJackson Critic “Challengers” is directed by Luca Guadagnino (of “Call Me By Your Name”, “Bones and All” and the recent Salvatore Ferragamo documentary). It was originally supposed to open last September. Then Amazon-MGM pushed it to the end of April. At the time I thought it was because of one of two things: the strikes going on or the fact that the film isn’t very good. More prominently… it’s the second reason.

Zendaya stars as Tashi Duncan, a tennis superstar. Early on in the movie she’s sitting in the crowd as Patrick Zweig (played by Josh O’Connor from “The Crown”) and Art Donaldson (Mike Faist — Riff in “West Side Story”) face-off in a tournament in New Rochelle, NY. We flash back 13 years to this trio when they’re 18 years old — how they meet and how they fall in love with each other. But are they really into each other or more into the game of tennis?

The only legitimate aspect of “Challengers” that works is showing how self-important these three characters think they are. But for the audience, if we want to invest ourselves in them for 2 hours and 11 minutes, it’s very difficult — along with this being a tennis movie in which Guadagnino and writer Justin Kuritzkes prove they don’t know how to properly portray the sport.

All the points go on way too long. Every time a character gets angry, they simply smash a racket. The attendees of the matches bob their heads back in forth in a goofy, synchronized fashion. And it’s very unrealistic to have a game that’s all about agility and speed be shown so often in slow-motion. Don’t know what Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were thinking with the techno score, except it was a forceful way to get emotion and intensity out of the audience. Very manipulative.

The dialogue is flim-flam. The characters are one-dimensional. The performances are borderline embarrassing. The timeline bouncing around so much doesn’t make for a smooth viewing experience. And then we get to the third act, with the worst windstorm of all-time in New Rochelle — and yet our three leads are oblivious to it.

Terrible soap opera. Ridiculous sports movie. Double fault.

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LightsCameraJackson LightsCameraJackson Critic

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