CHALLENGERS – Review by T. J. Callahan

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Challengers: “We can just be rich people.”

Director Luca Guadagnino, known for his wildly emotional, erotic and shocking films, has gone full soap opera as he serves up a tennis “love” triangle drama of the most steamy proportions with Challengers.

Zendaya stars as Tashi, a teen tennis phenom. After suffering a career ending injury she turns to coaching…her husband, Art (Mike Faist), a well known tennis champ on a losing streak. Tashi enters Art in a low level Challenger tournament to boost his confidence…until he finds himself in the finals pitted against Patrick (Josh O’Connor from The Crown), his former best friend and Tashi’s former boyfriend.

Set in 1991 and loosely based on actual events that took place in the world of professional tennis, Challengers’ story setting bounces back and forth more times than a live tennis ball in match play. It’s a clay court shell game. You can follow the timeline easily at first, but then it starts ricocheting out of control: the present, 13 years earlier, last week, midnight, three hours ago, eight years earlier. That was enough to make my husband, Ricky, pass out, but he held on. He’s good at math.

The tension starts to build in Challengers from the first scene thanks to sharp editing, GoPro camera shots, jarring music, the longest tennis match in film history and sex. It’s not a Luca Guadagnino film without crazy sex (no tennis balls were harmed in the making of this movie — although there was racquet abuse). Despite all this, Challengers is the director’s most relatable film yet. We can all get into a little melodrama.

Challengers is ‘All My Double Faults,’ One Lob to Live, The Young and The Winless, The Bold and The Baseline, Days of Our Slices…I could go on, but you get it. Don’t take the kids….even if they are tennis players. Challengers is a hard R . It’s not a smash, but it’s not a deuce either. It’ll keep you interested all the way to the ending you probably won’t see coming. I give it a 7 out of 10.

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T. J. Callahan

Texas Radio Hall of Fame broadcaster, T.J. Callahan switched gears from traffic and news reporting as a member of the Marconi Award winning Hudson and Harrigan Show on KILT in Houston to directing you to the right movie theatre as the resident film critic for Houston Radio Platinum and 101 Gold , Southern New Mexico's favorite radio station. Since 2009, T.J. has exclusively critiqued premiering films on such stations as KRMD in Shreveport, La., KILT in Houston, WCKT in Sarasota, Fla., as well as on The Chris X Blayney Show on The Liberty Eagle Radio Network and The Sam Malone Show on KNTH in Houston. Entertaining and informative, T.J. gets right to the point and lets you know whether the latest epic is worth your time. Listen to her Friday and Saturdays on and on Friday afternoons on the Leslie T. Travis Show on KVLC FM in Las Cruces. T.J. is also a proud member of the Critics Choice Association and the Houston Film Critics Society. She truly believes everything in life is one degree of Blazing Saddles.