Malcolm & Marie premiered on streaming app Netflix Friday, February 5th. Malcolm played by Golden Globe-winning actor John David Washington and Marie played by Emmy-winning actress Zendaya tells the story of a young couple heading back home after a movie premiere. The film is directed and written by Sam Levinson who is also the creator of Euphoria in which Zendaya plays the lead.
The film, stylized in black and white, opens up with both characters getting out of the car and heading into the home they share in Malibu. Marie is noticeably upset as she pulls up her evening gown and heads to the bathroom. Malcolm blasts Down and out in New York City by James Brown and dances in the living room.
Since the film is engrossed by the conversation between the two characters, I felt as though the writing was exhausting because there was not a true release. Every time Malcolm or Marie came into the room they chose to verbally abuse one another and every ‘break’ between the two was interrupted by the other. One scene, in particular, stuck out to me which was when Marie was in the bathtub and Malcolm comes in and starts explaining why she in fact is not the muse behind his leading lady in his film. Even though Malcolm finally admits that he did use Marie as a basis for the film, in the same breath he also lets her know that every piece of the main character is a little piece of every broken ex-girlfriend he dated, down to how she tied her shoes.
Another large criticism I have of the film is the long-drawn-out monologues on film history. The first one I could get through but the second, was it necessary? I thought the first one made by Malcolm had a purpose because he was explaining how the white lady from the L.A. Times could make out how his film on a young black woman becoming clean from drugs was political and how as a black director he didn’t want to be put in that box. Although, at the same time, he was writing a biopic on Angela Davis. The other time it was just drawn out and in my opinion not necessary. I also felt as though the excess use of profanity was a little lazy in the writing because in both characters the actors themselves presented a lot of emotion where the overuse of profanity was just not needed to get the point across.
The film embodies two truly remarkable actors and they both were able to showcase a complicated relationship. A scene that showcased Marie’s ability was the knife scene because even for myself I was convinced that she was not acting and just retelling accounts of her and Malcolm’s life before her sobriety. I did enjoy the stylized element of the film and the creativity behind the shots, my personal favorite was the shots through the window from inside of their bedroom. I also appreciated the little touches of Zendaya using her own clothes and doing her own makeup. I thought those aspects were nice and definitely appreciated in times of Covid.
My overall thought of the film was that it showed two great actors doing their job. I just couldn’t get into the writing even though the ability of the actors was well executed.
“I promise you, nothing productive is going to be said tonight,” Marie said and she definitely stayed true to her word.