Why Zendaya says you gotta see ‘Challengers’ twice  from Mashable

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After a worldwide press tour that’s been studded with tennis-inspired haute couture, Zendaya’s latest movie, Challengers, is finally opening in theaters. But be warned, the A-lister with style for days (years, eons) says you have got to see this one twice. 

Directed by acclaimed Call Me by Your Name helmer Luca Guadagnino, Challengers is a white-hot sports drama that is ostensibly about tennis — but it’s really about one of the hottest love triangles that cinema has ever seen. 

Zendaya stars as teenage phenom Tashi Duncan, whose skills are attracting big corporate sponsors before she even turns pro. Falling hard for Tashi’s intensity on the court are two best buds, played by Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor. Art Donaldson (Faist) is a golden boy who plays by the rules on the court, but plays dirty off it. Patrick Zweig is a cocky bad boy whose mischievousness causes excitement, whether in the game or in his life. 

Who will Tashi choose is an ongoing question, as the scorching script from Justin Kuritzkes treats her like a tennis ball flying back and forth between the two lusty players. Sure, she dates one, then marries the other. But during the movie’s climax — in which the two men face off in a championship match —  who she’ll walk away with is anything but certain. 

Why does Zendaya say people should see Challengers twice? 

Look. We warned you in our review that Challengers is a movie that will leave you breathless. Between the walloping character drama, dizzying sexual tension, and a score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that should be the soundtrack to all of your summer shenanigans, it’s a lot to take in. Perhaps viewers could be forgiven for getting a different read on the characters after their first watch than Zendaya has after inhabiting Tashi herself.  

Throughout the press tour, the celebrated actress has faced reporters who call her character a villain or declare to her face, “Tashi Duncan ain’t shit.” Essentially, some see Tashi’s character as a master manipulator, “taking such good care of [her] little white boys” (as she says in the trailer) by treating them like pawns in her own game of chess. 

But to this, Zendaya pushes back, asking ETalk reporter Tyrone Edwards, “Have you seen it again?” When he says he’s seen it one time, she responds, “Once you’ve seen it again, you let me know who ain’t shit,” pointing to Faist. It’s a point she’s repeated on the press tour: Art is the real bad guy here.  

Mike Faist as Art talks to Zendaya as Tashi in “Challengers.”
Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

Sure, the trailers calls Tashi a “man-eater,” playing up on Zendaya’s glorious glower power in the role. But while she’ll agree the character is “ruthless,” Art — she says — is a “snake.” 

O’Connor has joined her, noting that Art might seem like a nice guy, but that’s a ruse. To get into Art’s deceptions would be to share spoilers (though the Etalk interview does!). But what’s so fascinating about Kuritzkes’s script is how he plays into audience expectations with Art. Painted as the nice one, the good boy, we’re conditioned to believe his feelings for Tashi are pure. His motivations are sincere, even when his actions are underhanded. But like Zendaya says, “Watch it again.” 

On a second watch, it’s easier to see the metaphorical sleight of hand Art is pulling on his supposed best friend and his crush. It’s also easier to see what’s really motivating Tashi and the feelings Patrick hides beneath his braggadocio. This is not to say Tashi and Patrick are innocents. Even the stars agree they are respectively “ruthless” and a “hot mess.” But that’s why this love triangle is so mesmerizing, because who is right or wrong or worth rooting for might change every time you watch it. 

Mike Faist as Art, Zendaya as Tashi, and Josh O’Connor as Patrick in “Challengers.”
Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures

As Zendaya said in a press conference, “You watch it again, and I guarantee you that opinion will change… Every time, I’m angry at a different character or I feel more passionate about a different character, feel heartbroken… Your opinions will change every time you watch it. And that’s the fun part about the film. You never really have the answers you want, and that makes you question everything.” 

Challengers is an unexpected mystery box, made up of some gnarled heartstrings from three deeply flawed and fascinating characters. So, like rewatching a thriller once you know the answers to its haunting questions, Challengers calls you back again and again. So, actually yeah. Twice is for amateurs, not pro cinephiles. See Challengers three times. 

As Tashi Duncan would say, “COME ON!” 

Challengers is now in theaters. 

The post Why Zendaya says you gotta see ‘Challengers’ twice  from Mashable appeared first on Tom Bettenhausen’s.

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