Malcolm and Marie review: a visually impressive film missing depth

Euphoria creator Sam Levinson struggles to find substance beyond his style in this Netflix feature

Maja Mazur
11th February 2021
Image: IMDb
Netflix’s new release Malcolm & Marie, directed and written by Sam Levinson, explores the concept of two actors and one location more often seen in theatre rather than cinema.

Filmmaker Malcolm (Washington) returns home with his girlfriend (Zendaya) from a successful premiere of his debut film. His excitement is contrasted with the noticeably bad mood of Marie who eventually expresses her frustration that he didn’t thank her in his speech. With every interaction it becomes clear that their problems lie much deeper, unsurprisingly leading to a film-long-argument.

Malcolm & Marie is quite persuasive at showing a troublesome relationship full of miscommunication and verbal aggression. As the film progresses and gradually uncovers the past of the characters, the viewers are left to decide whose rights are more valid.

There are some interesting observations, but they’re lost in the torrent of the words and digressions.

The dynamic between the lovers though is too often suspended by Malcolm’s monologues about race, the sense of filmmaking and film criticism. It seems that Levinson aimed not only to create an artistic melodrama but a film reflecting on the condition of modern cinema.

Image: IMDb

Slightly over 1.5 hours is hardly enough to tell a story of a five-year-long relationship and it is certainly not enough to explore such vast topics. Consequently, it struggles to find depth in its broad strokes. There are some interesting observations, but they’re lost in the torrent of the words and digressions.

Zendaya and Washington cannot save the film from the weaknesses of its screenplay but nevertheless, they give a fair performance. Zendaya is especially persuasive in the quiet moments while portraying Marie as lost and hurt. Malcolm & Marie is also very aesthetically made with impressive black and white shots.

Even though I can’t shake the feeling that the idea for Malcolm & Marie was better than its actual realization, I still think it’s an interesting alternative to typical mainstream cinema productions. Not only is it visually stunning, but it also contains some intriguing observations that can lead to valuable discussions.

Rating 3.5/5

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