A director and his girlfriend’s relationship is tested after they return home from his movie premiere and await critics’ responses.
Having Zendaya and John David Washington leading your film would seem like the perfect recipe for a masterful feast on screen. And with writer/director Sam Levinson (Euphoria) already having worked with the former, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that you’d have a full course meal to enjoy with leftovers for days. That’s not the case with Malcolm & Marie. This came across as a desperate attempt for Oscar attention trying to measure up to some mystical auteur director that no one has ever heard of. That’s perfectly fine if executed with precision, but Levinson is too busy trying to be fanciful with useless extended dialogue that’s annoying, pointless, and loud.
After Malcolm (Washington) & Marie (Zendaya) return home from a highly anticipated movie premiere, their relationship is put to the test. What Levinson got right was his portrayal of Marie. Just seeing her take part in normal regular everyday actions like going to the restroom felt real and tangible. Without many words from her early on in the film, you could tell something was weighing heavy on her heart that she needed to express. This was a great way for the audience to attach themselves to her character, being able to relate in more ways than one. When she started to speak, it got even better. Her lines had meaning to them, and her delivery was on point. What also helped was the selection of jazz music playing over the background being ever so smooth and endearing.
Zendaya’s performance was simply outstanding. Her character Marie was a torn broken woman doing her best trying to hold all her pieces together before they start crumbling down. I only wish I could say the same about Malcolm but I can’t. His role was all over the place. Bad then good, then bad then worse. It’s difficult to depict how this was such a failure at a performance from such a good talent. His whole role felt forced and exaggerated. If you were ready to turn the film off within the first twenty minutes you wouldn’t be alone. Not only was the delivery awful, but the script in itself was. These two actors are talking not to each other, but to the audience as if we don’t know what’s going on. There is no reason to tell your cast members on the screen that you just came from a movie premiere. “Baby guess what I did tonight. I just premiered my biggest movie ever.” SHE KNOWS THIS!!! She was just there with you. This is just one of the many examples of not showing but telling. At this point, the film should’ve been titled, “Teach me like I’m 5,” because that’s how the director treated you.
Other than Zendaya, nothing gets better after this. Malcolm is the textbook example of toxicity. His character was disgusting. As soon as Marie challenged him on how she felt about their relationship, aka communication, Malcolm went out of his way to tear her down with verbal abuse. It was detestable. All he was doing was keeping her there to fuel his insecure ego. He also only screamed half the time. Nothing but screaming, hollering, and yelling looking like a fool. That’s not good acting.
What’s also disappointing is the lack of chemistry between the characters. They didn’t seem like a real romantic couple, but instead, just two people stuck together just to be kept from boredom. Like their relationship was just existing so neither of them would be lonely. They both needed therapy but were too proud to take advantage of it if it was beating at the front door. If anything it was only sexual, which Marie voices during the film was the only thing she couldn’t complain about, but it was also weird seeing her in such a way. I know Zendaya is of age, but she still looks like a teenager with a grown forty-year-old man. Both great actors that don’t fit well together on screen in a romantic setting.
This film was a huge letdown and near failure. It’s still confusing why certain camera shots were chosen. Then to make matters worse the cast actually called those shots out as if the director was saying, “Look you see audience, do you see what I did with the camera?” Sometimes less is more, but Levinson apparently didn’t get that message.