May 9, 2024
Peter Calder

"Challengers": A Hot and Sweaty New Experience (1 minute read)

Last night, I watched the newly released and highly anticipated "Challengers."

I'm surprised by the many negative reviews comparing it to other tennis films and not doing well enough with tennis accuracy and the sport itself. I found that the film should not be compared to those other films; I feel it didn't have too much to do with the sport. Perhaps on a metaphorical level,  or in the deeper sense, it has themes that relate to tennis, but I wouldn't categorize it as a  "tennis" film and neither should you.

Where "Challengers" struck gold for me was the three characters and their personalities weaving in and out of each other. 

Now, after taking a step back, I see that the film isn't really about one particular journey, event, or thing. It's about these three characters and their inseparable relationships to each other. 

Each character is so very different from the others, from the mature goody-goody family-type man to the immature broke bad boy. The film pushes these characters and the emotional ethics between them to the limit. 

It taps into people's deepest and darkest desires. 

The cast was great in their roles, especially Zendaya and Josh O'Connor; I have seen them both in other works, and this performance was stellar. 

Two particular aspects that I found where the film shone were the cinematography and the music.  The cinematography was like something out of an A24 or indie film. It's not something you would see in a traditional, Hollywood blockbuster-type film. 

Some of the unique ways the film was shot were by playing with time or slow motion, very long dollies and zooms, and disorienting camera angles. One angle was the point of view of the tennis ball as it was going from side to side. There are also quite a few angles underneath the tennis court that look straight up at the characters. These are all very unconventional ways of choosing to use the camera, but they add to the manic nature of the entire film and complement the themes,  characters and story throughout.  

The music reminded me of Daft Punk in "Tron." Where we would have these tense, intimate sequences and slow-motion tennis scenes with this electro music that I wasn't expecting, but it went well with the film and added an important layer of depth to the story and to the emotional feeling you get when watching it. A similar use of this is also done in the opening of "That Awkward  Moment." It can help but ramp things up in a very tense way, almost feeling like you are in an electro nightclub environment.  

I enjoyed the positive reception it got in the theatre itself. To see it in a full theatre with other people with the "oohs" and "ahhs" and laughter echoing throughout the room was definitely a highlight with this specific film. 

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