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You missed the point of Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Challengers’

Isa Peters // Frenesy Film Company
“Challengers” has challenged the idea of what sports and romance movies can be about

Luca Guadagnino is familiar with films that are different from what they seem based on the trailer. Most thought ‘Bones and All’ was just a standard horror film with maybe some romance elements, but it ended up being a devastatingly beautiful romance film that just happened to have cannibalism. Or perhaps a lot of cannibalism, still beautiful nonetheless. However, in Guadagnino’s new film, he takes his talent for making horrifyingly beautiful romance and uses those skills to create a thrilling love triangle film that will leave you flustered.

Tennis is a fairly popular sport, it is easy for everyone to learn and a fun game to follow. This would make it hard to create a super thrilling back-and-forth (tennis pun intended) movie since it is such a simple sport. Guadagnino dismisses those criticisms and uses the sport as a metaphor for how incredibly fast the love triangle between Tashi played by Zendaya, Art played by Mike Faist, and Patrick played by Josh O’Connor. 

They both want her. Every girl’s dream; two, kind of ugly, guys fighting over her. But what the low rating reviewers seem to miss, is that that is the point. They are all aware of the manipulation Tashi is performing on them but that only serves to rile them on. They need her attention, they need her to tell them they are doing good, and they need her. It is a fantasy they have and to have it play out is all three of their dreams coming true. Art and Patrick are not even the best tennis players, compared to Tashi, but Tashi knows how to use them to make it seem like they are the best. 

The reason so many were shocked by the movie (and for some reason homophobic), is because “Challengers” does not follow the popular trope of showing the entire movie in the trailer. It only showed the most important characters, not the plot, and only in the first act of the movie. In recent years so many movies have been scared of people not going to see them because of lack of interest so they shove the entire plot of the movie into the trailer so people will see it. This does work but then people expect every movie to be like that which leads to movies that do not do that being rated low because people thought wrong of what the trailer showed.

But that is what a trailer is, something that does not spoil everything. What should be shown in a trailer is the problem that sets off the rest of the movie and some fun slightly informative scenes. It should not be showing the character’s development, plot development, or even the big turning point- in a two-minute trailer. 

“Challengers” just displayed the most thrilling parts, not the important ones. Because of this, many thought it was going to be a steamy romance with a girl and her two boyfriends, but it ended up being so much more than that. Movies, especially romance, are not following the standard tropes anymore and people just are not ready to see that. Most non-Rom-Com romance movies are typically more serious. Like “Fifty Shades of Grey” or even “Past Lives” which are both not typical romance films, though Fifty Shades of Grey is not typical for other reasons. 

Romance movies are evolving from “girl loves the guy and they get married and live their lives together” and it has been happening for quite some time now. But the biggest reason that this movie was initially a shock to the public is because of Hollywood’s Princess Diana: Zendaya. 

Zendaya has proved in “Euphoria” that she is a phenomenally diverse actress. However, many only remember her from Disney or her “Pre-Euphoria” days. They know her as a phenomenal model and family-friendly actress. So when they first saw her in “Euphoria” or even “Malcolm and Marie,” they just chose to block it out of their minds. Now that “Challengers” is becoming the movie of the (early) summer, people are shocked that she would be in such a “scandalous” movie. 

They did not expect this commonly family-friendly actress to go out of her shell like an actor does, and do something to launch her adult life acting career. This could be one of the big reasons people did not understand the film. hey did not want to see what was right in front of them. Whether it be the gay love story or Zendaya in a more adult role, it still deserves some nuance. 

Brokeback Mountain” is a great example of people not liking something that is right in front of them because it is not the norm or because they did not expect Jake Gyllenhaal or Heath Ledger to be in these roles. A story about secret gay lovers in the country turned into a joke about gay men and love. According to a Men’s Health article, Heath Ledger hated the homophobic jokes and just wanted people to take the movie how it is and not change it to fit their view of love. 

“Challengers” is facing a similar hurdle, people are still not used to major films having ‘non-traditional” love even though it is 2024. It might be time to accept that more people exist than your monolith. Just like any other movie, it has its flaws, but those flaws do not mean it is an utterly terrible movie. It is just supposed to be a steamy new-age love story, not a new-age Shakespeare retelling. 

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About the Contributor
Isa Peters
Isa is a sophomore, a Perspectives reporter, and on the Black and Gold podcast. She is excited for her first year on the Journalism team! When she’s in the podcast room you can see all the ideas flowing out of her head and simply just enjoying being with friends. She is a passionate artist, music lover (specifically K-pop), and avid movie critic on Letterboxd. When not in the podcast room she’s on the sidelines cheering with the Varsity Dance Team or in her room reading about Jo March’s adventures.

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  • M

    miaMay 15, 2024 at 1:17 pm

    this article was very informative ☺️☺️ love!!!❤️❤️❤️❤️