Who in the culture do we have to thank for finally giving us the much-needed genre of the complicated, queer menage a trois?
First, there was the British post-war love triangle My Policeman starring Harry Styles, Emma Corrin and David Dawson.
Now, the powers that be have delivered us a rompy new spectacle guaranteed to be the collaboration of the century, with Luca Guadagnino’s latest haunting romance Challengers bringing a whole new meaning of “love” to the game of tennis.
The official synopsis goes something like this: Zendaya leads the cast as Tashi, a Serena Williams-esque tennis prodigy bound to become a grand slam champion before a cruel act of fate sees her eschew that ambition and instead coach her husband Art (Mike Faist) a tennis pro on a losing streak through a challengers tournament against his former lover, The Crown’s Josh O’Connor.
Yet, the recently released trailer for the pseudo-sports drama proves that this story has much more camp, lust and risqué double entendres than initially anticipated.
Oh, and most likely a crying Tom Holland because this trailer embodies exactly what the Italian auteur does best: serve steamy sexual tension that makes us question our fraught relationships.
Watch the trailer for ‘Challengers’ here and below:
What Is The Movie Challengers About?
At its core, Challengers explores the art of seduction and the games played in relationships against the backdrop of a US Open-like tournament with montages of our sweat-dripping, bicep flexing and Gatorade-slinging protagonists.
“It’s hyperkinetic,” Guadagnino described at a red carpet premiere for his most recent film, the cannibal love story Bones And All, noting that the Zendaya, O’Conner and Faist’s characters are “beautifully complex and really fucked-up people”.
As the trailer revealed, the plot of the film will take place over two time periods, including one where our protagonists are Adidas-wearing teenagers rising through the ranks of the American Tennis Association.
“Tashi Duncan is going to turn her whole family into millionaires, she’ll have a fashion line, a foundation,” O’Conner’s Patrick says of Zendaya’s character, who doesn’t sound too dissimilar to the star’s off-screen persona.
In this period, Tashi’s relationship with her then-boyfriend Patrick is renewed thanks to the addition of his childhood best friend Art (Faist). As we see in the trailer, Tashi’s meteoric abilities on the court enchant both men, with their fanboy behaviour leading to a steamy threesome in a hotel room one night.
The trailer leaves room for imagination (and more of these scenes to be unveiled during the film), but does a masterful job of supplanting Tashi as an almost power-hungry dominatrix who receives gratification from controlling Patrick and Art’s lives.
After an on-court accident, Tashi is left residing on the sidelines. Fast forward several years (and a chic bob haircut) later, Tashi is left coaching her now-husband Art in a challengers tournament against Patrick.
The result? Scenes of a shirtless O’Conner and Faist in a sauna together, Zendaya serving her best ‘wasp’ drag in Hamptons-chic buttons down—along with delivering the line of the century: “I’m taking such good care of my little white boys”—and a delicious love triangle we can’t wait to sink our teeth into.
With the trailer soundtracked to Rihanna’s “S&M”, we have every belief this R-rated romance will be the “sexy comedy” Guadagnino is promising it will be.
Of course, it would be remiss of us to avoid mentioning Guadagnino has tapped the one and only Jonathan Anderson for the costuming of the film. Sadly, Anderson’s costume design has refused us the opportunity to see Tashi in a LOEWE breastplate dress or JW Anderson pigeon purse, however, it has delivered a dosage of understated quiet luxury apparel. A treatment we hope will be available to purchase upon the film’s release on September 15.
Indeed, Anderson’s costuming—which we already believe Tashi’s blue dress may deserve a spot in the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures—is another genius stroke from Guadagnino that ties his cinematic universe of eclectic indie heartthrobs together.
All that’s left is for Zendaya to walk the LOEWE runway à la Taylor Russell in the maison’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection. And for us to get a front-row seat to the film’s premiere, of course.
Challengers will be released in theatres on September 15.