(director: Luca Guadagnino; screenwriter: Justin Kuritzkes; cinematographer: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom; editor: Marco Costa; music: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross; cast: Zendaya (Tashi Duncan), Josh O’Connor  (Patrick Zweig), Mike Faist (Art Donaldson), A.J. Lister (Lily), Btyan Doo (Art’s Physiotherapist), Christine Dye (Motel Front Desk Clerk); Runtime: 131; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Amy Pascal, Luca Guadagnino, Zendaya, Rachel O’Connor; Amazon MGM; 2024)

“The love triangle has a sexy geometry to it.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The imaginative Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (“Bones and All”/”Suspira”) wonderfully directs this sexy tennis pic as if it were a dramatic screwball comedy. The character-driven script is written by Justin Kuritzkes, who makes it into a messy love match.

There’s a Challengers tournament match in the New Rochelle country club in 2019 for those lesser players competing to get into the major tournaments. The big match is between former pro champions who were best friends in the past– Art Donaldson (Mike Faist) and Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor). They were 12-year-old bunkmates and double partners at a tennis academy in 2006.

The film confusingly veers back and forth between timelines, with multiple flashbacks and flashforwards.

Ever since both players met in 2006, they have been drooling over the third player at the academy, the sexy tennis prodigy Tashi Duncan (Zendaya). Tashi encouraged the boys to compete for her, but cared more about improving her tennis game.

Though Patrick and Tashi begin a romance (he’s the better player than the more reserved Art), things change when Tashi suffers a career-ending injury in college and then feels the need to marry Art. She becomes his coach as he turns pro, and preps her hubby as a veteran pro player on the circuit to win the prestigious U.S. Open. But he’s on a losing streak, and in order for him to get his confidence back she has entered him in the lesser competitive Challengers tournament where he’s sure to win. But Art has a match with Patrick, who fell on bad times and is living out of his car. Patrick surprisingly beats Art, and has hopes of making a comeback.  

The tennis looks authentic, the love triangle has a sexy geometry to it, and it aces things like film style, laughs and performances by the trio (with Zendaya giving a super-star performance).

It should be noted that this lusty sports film cares more about the dynamics of the characters than in who wins, which makes it a winner in my sports book.

REVIEWED ON 4/15/2024  GRADE: B+