About the Movie that Made Me Buy a Tennis Racket

📸 Niko Tavernise / Metro Goldwyn M/Niko Tavernise / Metro Goldwyn – © 2023 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

by Nick French

Rating: 4 of 5 Rackets


Hi–Nick, here. I’m a fresh face here at NewPrensa and your friendly neighborhood Communications and Engagement manager at NewPublica. Like most of this crew, I’m deep into pop culture and the various slices of life that make the Twin Cities my favorite place to dig into incredible foods, music, and art. 

This week, I think I finally understood the hype of tennis. I was well acquainted with the sport thanks to growing up admiring the household names Serena and Venus Williams and Roger Federer, but in recent years, the sport had been eclipsed by other hobby pursuits like my career, love life, and the constant unending dread that the world is ending (#JustMillennialThings). But after hunkering down in my seat at the Landmark Lagoon, I was deeply impressed enough to go buy a tennis racket and take up the sport. Consider me influenced!

‘Call Me By Your Name’ director Luca Guadagnino’s latest dramedy entry was at the top of my watch-list after reading rave reviews and hearing friends gush about film and fashion star Zendaya’s incredible performance. After debriefing with my friends and consulting some errant fan-theories floating around the world-wide web, I have some thoughts. 

Major Standouts:

Zendaya (Shake It Up, Euphoria, and recently, Dune 2) seized the opportunity to play an actual adult instead of a teen and ran with it. To my delight, her performance as the counterpiece to both Mike Faist (Dear Evan Hansen) and Josh O’Connor (God’s Own Country) was grounding, consequential, and well-paced. As the film presents, we watch the trio flash-back between a present conflict and preceding events that tell the worn-and-treaded trope of the “love triangle”. What I found most intriguing about leveraging tennis as the basis and metaphor of their relationship was the intensity of the action scenes with dizzying and often nauseating camera-work to represent nonverbally the dynamic and physical aspects of the relationship complete with grunting and sweat. Do I think the metaphor worked? Yes. Am I a tennis-aficionado that would probably find some fault in the logistics and execution? Well, no. 

Oh, I can’t forget to shout out Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network and Nine Inch Nails) for composing one of, what I believe to be, a major soundtrack moment in the zeitgeist. I can’t remember the last time a fully instrumental soundtrack had this tight of a grip on pop culture. From the get-go, they let us know that they mean serious business in the opening scene with the driving techno beats peppered with percussive thwacks and call-backs to sports hype music a la Backyard Baseball video games to establish the intensity of the tennis duels, leaving the audience feeling invincible.


Like it or not, the film leaves you with a bit of a cliffhanger. I tend to be in the camp of not loving them–but to each their own. What I will say is that the plot offers little in the department of clear character analysis and motivations; almost everything is up to interpretation, which we know is half the fun of this kind of movie. As is the risk with using flash-backs throughout the entire film, there were times that the film lost my interest, or I was pulled out of my suspension-of-disbelief because of the creative choices (e.g. the extreme wind in some scenes). The queer theorist in me wished that the movie addressed more of the subversive sexual subtexts in the movie, instead of just slightly nodding, but there simply wasn’t the time, this isn’t a Scorcese!

Overall, I would recommend this movie to somebody who is interested in the deep complexities of a love triangle but wants the story delivered in a sporty-spicy triangle. It is definitely riding on the wave of the recent trend of romance novels geared at young adults, but is a smart and plucky ride nonetheless.

If my review didn’t convince you to check it out, maybe some of these Letterboxd reviews might.

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