Malcolm & Marie, Film Review



Our story begins after a momentous evening. A-listers Zendaya and John David Washington waltz through the door with completely different expressions. John’s character is a filmmaker whose movie premiere caused quite the stir. While he defaults to celebration mode, Zendaya’s character couldn’t care less. For at said premiere, Malcolm forgot to thank Marie during his speech. I could basically end the story there. Due to this film’s simple and steady approach, it doesn’t leave much room to break ground. However, what this film accomplishes is a calculated exhale on what we think about love. Both Malcolm and Marie have their issues. Marie is a survivor of drug abuse. Her choices kept her from becoming the model and actress she wished to be. Malcolm is the son of esteemed parents. His pain derives from the relationships he chose in which to partake, and wrestling with a ten-ton ego.

Malcolm and Marie cool down after a heated debate. | DOMINIC MILLER / NETFLIX

Despite their differences, it’s clear they love each other. Although this film occupies a singular space, the journey to unravel the inner workings of this star-struck relationship is well worth your time. Director Sam Levinson gives a new take on a classic human conundrum. As a writer on Euphoria, it comes as no surprise he selected Zendaya as his leading woman. And boy, does she hit it out of the park with this performance. The Emmy-winner’s cold shoulder blasts the screen with more than enough color and texture. This film doesn’t need film color to send its message. The emotion, tension, and regret of this tumultuous night bleed straight through the fourth wall. Both artists rant, rave, and emote until their throats run dry. What I love so much about Malcolm & Marie are its patience and accuracy about what it means to truly love someone more than yourself.

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Conflicts come and go like waves here. First they’re indifferent. Then they’re at each other’s necks. One second they’re arguing. And the next they’re love-tussling. The ebb and flow of this relationship embodies that of a real rollercoaster of feelings. Marie believes his film is about her downfall. Malcolm denies it and explains the significance of each act. She tries to downplay his importance in her recovery. He tries to up-play his importance to the industry. Both of them are right and both of them are wrong. Yet when triggered, human beings oft forget to be objective. When you love someone, and have for a very long time, it’s easy for complacency to run rampant. The simple things bring us together. And it’s those same simple things that tear us apart too. Following a night full of false friendships, brown-nosing, and uppity comments, Marie had had enough.

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And who could blame her? Malcolm had it coming. In spite of having a good heart, it’s what we do in the heat of the moment that defines us. For all the times Malcolm didn’t thank Marie for her undying support, she merely wanted to hear that he appreciated her. Nagging someone constantly about things such as this is unbearable. Conversely, never bringing it up has the chance to derail years of romantic progress. The vigor and believability of these performances I won’t soon forget. Zendaya deserves an Oscar nod for this one. And even though I’m not the biggest JDW fan, he performs pretty well here too. Though I must say it’s hard to mess up near-perfect setup shots and sharp, vein-popping dialogue. With Malcolm & Marie, Levinson captures the comeuppance of fame and how it can destroy relationships. Many critics hang themselves up on Levinson’s meta commentary.

Marie (Zendaya) reflects on her lover’s past relationships. | NETFLIX

The intricacies of Malcolm’s diatribes about critics and the industry shed a healthy light on what transpires in the business of entertainment. This film received average scores across the board. And personally, I believe it’s due to the truth Levinson highlights about what critics and industry workers actually value. They don’t value relationships but rather connections. And they don’t value character but rather social avatars. It’s a game within a game. And the way in which Zendaya plays her role as a real actor playing an aspiring actor who uses her talents to show her lover his own shadow, to me, displays the meaning of artistry. And that is performing a craft with so much love and so much passion and so much commitment that it inspires others to follow suit. So before you go patting yourself on the back, think of those who helped put a shirt on it.


Film Review: Malcolm & Marie
Plot / Story
Actor Performances
Production Design
Sound / Score
Character Development
Gripping Dialogue
Brilliant Female Lead
Exemplary Camerawork
Minimal Over-Acting
Stationary Setting
Cyclical Conflict
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