"Malcolm & Marie" stars Zendaya and John David Washington. Released on January 29, 2021, followed by a Netflix release on February 5, 2021, the film has a filmmaker and his girlfriend putting their love to the test.
The film was written and directed by Sam Levinson, who also wrote and directed "Another Happy Day" and "Assassination Nation". Not all love stories are as sweet and innocent as they seem. Most of them don't turn out the way we think they should, and if my assumptions are correct, this film could be one of those examples. Known for being the first film to be written, financed, and produced during the pandemic, this latest drama sees the unification of Denzel Washington's son John and former Disney star Zendaya as they attempt to go for the gold during this year's awards season. While I was intrigued with the film because of its concept and its main leads, I was also concerned about it, mostly due to writer/director Sam Levinson's involvement. The last film I watched from him was "Assassination Nation" back in 2018, and long story short, it negatively pushed my buttons. It didn't cause me to have a personal grudge against the filmmaker, but it did cause me to hate violence and stupidity even more. So I was hoping that his latest project will at least be more tolerable than that disgusting and offensive mess. With that in mind, let's watch the drama unfold.
The story centers on filmmaker Malcolm Elliot (Washington) and his girlfriend Marie Jones (Zendaya). They return home from a massive premiere of Malcolm's latest film. As they wait for the reviews to be released, their quiet evening takes an unexpected turn for the worse when their discussions go down a darker path. Based on the description alone, you might think that it's about two people who argue their butts out all night long. While that may be true, there's more to this story than what it appeared to be. It represented a relationship that's being torn apart due to the actions the main characters committed. More importantly, it showcased a filmmaker's perspective on film criticism regarding diversity and people's own beliefs. The topics alone would've made any film fanatic squeal with delight, and Sam Levinson did a decent job at representing these themes. However, the same can't be said for its story. Even though it was a vast improvement over Levinson's last film, "Malcolm & Marie" is one of the movies that left me with a mixed feeling. I didn't hate it, but I also didn't love it either. One of the essential things that grabbed my attention was the performances. Levinson placed the two main actors on set and told them to "go for it", and boy did they went for it. The film is an acting tour-de-force that benefited greatly from the unique talents of these young actors. John David Washington once again delivered a worthy performance that would've made his father Denzel proud. He can be a bit too over-the-top at times, but he managed to turn himself around quickly before he became a melodramatic piece of unintentional comedy. However, the real star of the show was Zendaya, who dominated her role as Marie. She was a force to be reckoned with as she channeled her internal emotion into a character who's either deeply hurt or frustrated by her boyfriend's choices. It made me wonder why the Golden Globes didn't nominate her in the first place. Another selling point was the cinematography. Shot in black-and-white 35 mm film, "Malcolm & Marie" displayed the look and feel of a black-and-white romance film from the 1930s or 1940s with stunning results. The only difference was that it takes place in the present instead of the 30s or 40s. It beautifully captured the emotion and the sceneries in pure, perfect detail. As for its flaws, the story fell a bit quickly to the monotonous side after the first 20 minutes. Throughout the entire film, the two characters only did four things: argue, apologize, make love, repeat. I didn't mind this process during the film's first act, but when the characters do it a bit too frequently, it started to become less emotional and more annoying. I'm pretty sure that these characters are going to need therapy after that type of experience. Sam Levinson was able to portray this relationship in a realistic light due to his direction. However, that can only get the film so far when it comes to its tedious storytelling. It goes to show that one-night narratives don't usually translate well with all types of stories. I also thought the runtime was a bit too excessive for me. It should've been better off as a short film for a concept like this. A runtime of over an hour and 40 minutes, combined with a couple of dragged-out scenes, made the film one step closer to being overkill.
Overall, "Malcolm & Marie" has tons of style and talent on screen, along with some steamy sequences, but they weren't enough to carry its tiresome plot towards greatness. It's like watching an actual couple fight. It's engaging at first, but after a while, I started to wish that they would get over themselves and call it a night. The performances and the cinematography have enough flair to keep things enticing. However, its flawed script and pacing transformed this piece of filmmaking art into a tedious yet gorgeous depiction of an imperfect relationship. If you're a fan of these two actors and the romance genre, then this film should be worth your time.