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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Malcolm & Marie' Review: Zendaya & John David Washington Argue In Sam Levinson's Relationship Drama

John David Washington hugging Zendaya from behind

Film critics, am I right? Particularly known for having been written and shot during the coronavirus pandemic, Malcolm & Marie is a drama from the crew behind the series ’Euphoria’, led by director and writer Sam Levinson and starring Zendaya (as Marie) alongside John David Washington (Malcolm).

Film director Malcolm and his girlfriend Marie, the characters, arrive from the former’s latest movie premiere where he finally got a great reception from critics but in all that hype forgot to thank Marie in his speech. Back at home, tensions between the two begin to rise as their fight unravels a lot of built-up resentment from both towards each other and in Malcolm’s case, film industry as well. Levinson is seemingly unable to push the absurd premise beyond that as much of it reminds you of one of those more mediocre titles at student film festivals, except this time it’s filled with a lot of meaningless American, Hollywood mumbo jumbo.

First five minutes flashes the promise that the movie has as the camera whirls around Marie and Malcolm calmly since the time-bomb is yet to explode. Malcolm is in his own little bubble while Marie is noticeably irritated from not being thanked but still listens patiently. Increasingly Zendaya becomes the driver of the vehicle with her less-is-more attitude in her acting and editor Julio Perez IV begins to hone down to that after the first long tracking shot.

Zendaya and the power of rhythmic editing is behind most of the film’s strongest moments. Later though they both become the victim of an overstayed welcome because as Malcolm & Marie starts to repeat itself, you can’t help but wonder how much better this would’ve been as a short film instead of the frustratingly dull hour and 40 minutes. Especially Washington’s loudness (yes, in decibels) wears you down with the uncontrolled room reverb of the location.

Much of the crew and the lead actors are way too over-qualified to be stuck in a mega-budgeted version of a LA student film. Levinson’s direction of actors is fine but his script does feel like the first draft of a diary entry (note again the ’’written and produced during the pandemic,’’ back in June even). Perhaps it was indeed rushed to existence since the story doesn’t really progress after the first fight between the couple but even if it did, the dialogue is still horribly bad. Much of the attention will probably go to how Levinson reduces someone to only their race and gender because the creative juices are a dying breed—’’white female’’ seems to be his catchphrase—returning to that about four times but the arguments between Marie and Malcolm are like nails on a chalkboard.

There is no reason for them to end up together, stay together or be as intimate together as depicted in the movie, those intimate scenes look a lot like a foot fetish commercial, not necessarily like a loving partnership. Everything is more or less crowned by the unnecessary black-and-white cinematography and colour palette, it’s more of a bootlick to award committees than an artist vision to make the arguments either wrong or right (which they aren’t in Malcolm and Marie’s case).

Smileys: Editing

Frowneys: Screenplay, dialogue, runtime, cinematography

That budget has to be fake, right?


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