Movie Review: ‘Malcolm and Marie’

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Jasmine Andrea

‘Malcolm and Marie’ was released in late January on Netflix.

Jasmine Andrea, Junior Editor

Overview 

‘Malcolm and Marie’ is a black and white film that pays homage with its aesthetic to the 1966 Mike Nichols film, ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’. It takes place in an isolated house with only two characters in the 106 minute running time.

Malcolm is buzzing after his successful movie premiere. His other half and unlucky actress, Marie, portrayed by Zendaya, is upset for a multitude of reasons that are debunked over the entirety of the movie. One of which being that she was not one of the many thanked in his speech. This was an unfortunate situation writer and creator, Sam Levinson, found himself in with his wife.

However, the situation escalates tremendously, and this long and emotionally draining war of words continues for almost two hours. Malcolm’s outbursts tend to last double or triple the time that Marie’s do, and he spitballs just about the same thing over and over again. It is almost exhausting as a viewer to watch the turmoil between the two and the rollercoaster of emotions seems to never end.

The film attempts to spark a larger conversation and it does in a sense. It makes you think about what really goes on behind the scenes of a movie. 

However, that conversation is overshadowed by the raging toxicity of their relationship, and some viewers are angered that race was brought into this issue the wrong way, especially since Levinson is a white man trying to depict the difficulties of a black man.

Behind the Scenes

Levinson, known for creating HBO’s ‘Euphoria’, used many of his own experiences to write Malcolm’s character. One of Malcolm’s many fury-filled monologues was aimed at a “white lady at the LA Times” who in fact wrote a positive review on his film, yet he had nothing positive to say about her. 

Critic’s have questioned if this was a subtle dig from Levinson to Kate Walsh—a white film critic of the LA Times who didn’t give Levinson’s 2018 ‘Assassination Nation’ a positive review.

I find this a creative use of the situation and a realistic plot point that every filmmaker goes through. However, the quite obvious finger-pointing is nothing to be proud of, especially when it is already a controversial and problematic point of discussion in the real world.

A Positive

On the positive side, the acting job by the only two cast members, Zendaya and John David Washington, is more than decent. The viewer is able to so deeply dislike Malcolm’s character and so profoundly feel for Marie and her position. Although the chemistry between the couple is lacking and their argument seems more about personal issues than their relationship, their passion is admirable.

Verdict

The mature themes of this movie come across mediocrely, and although I wouldn’t say this movie is career-ending for either party, it isn’t a movie I will be streaming again, and maybe Levinson and Malcolm can learn from each other as filmmakers in the future.