A Challenging Love Triangle


The love triangle fascinates me. It’s a classic storytelling device because it comes with built-in drama, tension, and excitement. It radiates sex, secrets, and heartache. What more can you want from a story?  Rick, Ilsa, and Laslo in Casablanca. Jay, Daisy, and Tom in The Great Gatsby. Vampire, Werewolf, and Bella in the Twilight series. The love triangle never stops delivering.

I’ve been compelled to use the love triangle in at least two of my novels. Gwen, Brian, and Jude drive a tense narrative in Stash. In Clean Break, Celeste has to face that Adam and Jake are on a collision course.

Have you noticed something about all of these love triangles? Every one of them is two men, one woman. I can’t even think of a love triangle story that involves two women and one man. Why is it always two men and one woman? It’s always the female character exudes desirability and sexual power, and the two men compete for her.

That was a long introduction into the storytelling structure girding the slick new movie Challengers, starring the effervescent, stunning, and hugely popular Zendaya, along with two guys whose names I’m not looking up now but did great work in the film. They are dudes with two different looks, both good looking, depending on your taste in men. Their characters are Art (light)  and Patrick (dark) and they’re both professional tennis players. Zendaya’s character, Tashi, was an up-and-coming tennis star along with the boys, but she blew out her knee at Stanford and never made it back.

I might include minor spoilers in here, but they shouldn’t impact your enjoyment of the movie.  

The film flashes between the time when the three of them knew each other as teenagers on the junior circuit and to the present, age thirty-one. Both men have had relationships with Tashi at various times. In current time, Art is married to Tashi who is his coach, and he has won four majors which means he’s one of the best players in the world. But he’s in a slump and he wants to get his confidence back before the upcoming U.S. Open, the one major championship that has eluded him.

Tashi encourages Art to play in a low-level challenger tournament for players who are a step below the main professional tour. He can wipe out the competition and feel his mojo again. But he runs into Patrick, who never got beyond the challenger level. Former best friends divided by the third rail in the trio, they’ve been out of touch for years. What ensues are plot twists and a reckoning both on and off the court.

The film has been getting positive reviews. And I definitely had to see it because of the tennis angle. There aren’t many movies that involve both tennis and a love triangle, so it was must-see for me. I liked the tennis settings at the lesser courts and major stadiums, and the tennis “action” was mostly well done.

But I found the love triangle dull and didn’t care how it resolved, and I wanted the movie to end before it did. The acting is first rate so I fear my reaction has something to do with the script, the writing, and it might have to do with the object of affection: Tashi. Or the goofy ending. I saw the movie a week ago. I left the theater saying “meh” but in the week that has passed I’m more positive in my reaction. It’s youthful and exuberant and has something going. I think it’s worth seeing.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, journalist, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.


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