Malcolm & Marie (2021)

"You know what I just realized, Marie? It’s not about justifying your existence. It’s not. It’s about you being so scared and so selfish that you have to break me down. Second guess everything I do.""You know what I just realized, Marie? It’s not about justifying your existence. It’s not. It’s about you being so scared and so selfish that you have to break me down. Second guess everything I do."

“You know what I just realized, Marie? It’s not about justifying your existence. It’s not. It’s about you being so scared and so selfish that you have to break me down. Second guess everything I do.”

The moment Malcolm & Marie starts the tension has been brewing. It’s a big night for Malcolm (John David Washington) who just had his feature film debut to audiences and critics. It’s a happy moment, an achievement to celebrate with loud music, dancing and alcohol, a lot of alcohol. The happiness is short lived when Marie (Zendaya) musters a simple “Mm-hmm” when Malcolm recaps the spectacular event that just took place. He’s too busy partying and celebrating to notice that Marie isn’t happy, and it takes even longer for Marie to actually say why she is angry and about to start “a bad fight” that sends shock waves into the couples not so sturdy foundation.

Not everything is what it looks to be, and the camera work implies that fact. When the cinematography by Marcell Rev starts on the outside nothing appears to be wrong with the couple as they return to their Malibu house, rented for them by the production company. Everything is happy, the couple is on cloud 9 as they should be after a big night, but when the camera moves inside the spacious home, the cracks and fractures in the relationship is more in focus. It’s a two person show even with all the space Marcell captures a sense of claustrophobia as the boiling point spills out of the pot. 

Writer and director Sam Levinson’s (Euphoria) characters are at the forefront here. Neither are afraid to speak their minds or get their hands dirty digging up dirt from the past that is extremely hurtful to the other. Malcolm does this more often than Marie. He’s constantly throwing the fact that Marie is a former drug addict when he met her. Malcolm changed her life; Marie became clean and really changed her lifestyle. He was even there for her when she cheated on him and relapsed. How sweet of him.

It’s not just about you forgetting to thank me, Malcolm. It’s about how you see me. And how you view my contribution, not just to this relationship, but to your work. Specifically in a movie you made about my life.”

Malcolm’s ego is way too big for his own good, after all he’s not an elitist, he’s a filmmaker. Even with his enormous head size, Marie is able to stick a pin in the balloon and bring him down to earth only for Malcolm to go on another rant about a different topic, or maybe it’s Sam Levinson using his character as a vessel to tell us how he really feels. Other topics that get under his skin in a matter of seconds is about film critics (I feel attacked, even though this is a hobby, for now) and how one critic in particular criticized his film. He rants for a good ten painful whining minutes on how he’s unfairly criticized by people mostly one LA based critic in particular. He truly feels attacked for his work being so self-absorbed that he thinks he’s above any criticism. 

Roughly the first half hour of Malcolm & Marie works with its two-person cast. There is so much passion dished out and the use of the black and white tone capture’s the juxtaposition. The remainder is a mess that loses its grip after the groundwork that was laid. Malcolm & Marie leans on its two lead performances to carry it to the finish line. John David Washington continues to impress with everything that he’s involved in further distancing himself from his father’s gigantic shadow. Emotionally, John David crushes this role even though his character is horrifyingly misogynistic, egotistical and self-absorbed. As brilliant as John David is, Malcolm & Marie is Zendaya’s movie.

Zendaya continues to prove and show off her natural talent and ability. She’s more than the “Love interest” in a blockbuster franchise ala Spider-Man. Her true strength as an actress is in her facial expressions and body language. It doesn’t hurt that she brings a fierce personality to her characters either. Whenever Marie is silent after a vicious attack from Malcolm, the focus should be all on her face. In these moments she’s beautiful at expressing the pain of these horrible memories that need to stay in the past where they belong. Her unpredictability is another thing to marvel at. When Marie grabs the knife and transforms into the person Malcolm “saved” its hypnotizing. 

“You’re so good at fighting. You fought to make the movie, to make it the way you wanted to make it. So why didn’t you fight for me? Because I would have been good. I would have. Maybe even better.”

Malcolm & Marie is a shit show that shows an intensified spotlight on a relationship. Are these two humans this toxic that no matter what the other says, the other is ready to defend them. Selves. It’s hard to see any good in these two individuals when they are in the same room together. Each bomb that’s dropped is immediate grounds for a breakup but not for these two. If they can survive cheating, drugs, and theft of experiences (Marie’s reasoning to why she’s mad) they can survive this painful night that didn’t have any hope for being a good night of celebration. 

Malcolm & Marie is undoubtedly a tragedy. What’s even more tragic is the use of the macaroni and cheese. That’s the real heartbreak of this endless night of fighting and nearly making up. Just know Mac & Cheese – it’s not your fault, he shouldn’t have hurt you like that. No one needs to be that aggressive when eating something so delicious.

Marie is angry at Malcolm because he didn’t thank her in his speech. He took her life and experiences and made them as his own. He didn’t even cast her in the lead role. Instead of saying “I’m Sorry” which he eventually does after an insufferable amount of time, Malcolm defends himself by taking intimate details from previous relationships and shoving these details down Marie’s throat. Is the point to make her jealous that he has a risqué picture of an ex in a photo album at their home? Who knows, on the outside its immature that highlights his fragile emotional state. 

Malcolm & Marie starts off promising that takes a nosedive after the first half hour. Its anchored by its lead performances by John David Washington and Zendaya and the up close and intimate cinematography. If I wanted to listen to two people argue for 2 hours about nonsense with no purpose or resolution, I’d listen to nails on a chalk board and that’s really not what I find appealing. If I were to rate Malcolm & Marie, I’d rate it a 2.5 out of 5. 

So, tell me, have you seen Malcolm & Marie and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. Do you think Malcolm & Marie has more use of the word F*ck than The Wolf of Wall Street?

Malcolm & Marie is written and directed by Sam Levinson is Rated R and has a 59% on Rotten Tomatoes. Malcolm & Marie was released on February 5, 2021 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 48 minutes. Malcolm & Marie can be streamed on Netflix.

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