Malcolm & Marie

Malcolm & Marie ★★★

“Malcolm if this is a movie, you hold on to me for dear fucking life...”

Written and directed by Sam Levinson, it is a pretty decent watch for something thrown together during the pandemic. Levinson’s story follows Malcolm (John David Washington) and Marie (Zendaya); their complicated relationship is full of contradictions: they love each other, fight, discuss, and feel the full brunt of the other’s shortcomings.

Malcolm is a movie director who laps up praise and flies into a rage over a review of one of his films. Malcolm doesn’t want to be known as just a black film director. He wants to be compared to William Wyler just as much as Barry Jenkins. He is annoyed by the critic’s accusation of sexism and leaning on his male gaze, while not facing up to the fact that he has belittled Marie by calling her “unstable” and later a “fucking mental patient”. He also doesn’t take the note from Marie about incorporating femininity into his work. Marie is not without her flaws either. She is a former addict and blames Malcolm for not casting her in his film, even though he gave her an opportunity to audition. She also retaliates after his insults and calls him “fucking crazy”, “delirious”, and “a true insane person”.

Despite their grievances with each other, there is plenty of touching and feeling. However, it is disturbing when at first Malcolm is all over Marie, but she is not so into his kissing. It would be more romantic if Marie had been more into it instead of seething with anger. The problems in the story provided for drama, but no one wants to see a one-sided love affair.

It is subversive when Marie is shown on the toilet in the beginning and Malcolm standing up and urinating later. Perhaps it’s too much when Malcolm briefly worships Marie’s foot. It’s meta when Malcolm explores all the things he wants to do as a director.

Shot on Kodak film using an ARRI as the credits suggest, Malcolm & Marie is slick and stunning in black and white. There are great tracking shots, a wonderful soundtrack, and it’s expertly edited to make the only two actors, Zendaya and John David Washington seem like enough. Also, one day, I hope to see Malcolm’s Angela Davis biopic.

Vegan alert:
Marie makes mac and cheese
Marie references buying milk

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