This is not a Malcolm review, this is a review about Malcolm & Marie.
We love the idea of two people being madly in love on film. Most theatrical relationships are portrayed as fairytales with a satisfying resolution and a happy ending. However, Euphoria’s Director and Writer, Sam Levinson challenged the idea of romance while tackling issues of filmmaking, love, pain, and trauma. Fans have anticipated the “lockdown movie” as it features two of the brightest stars in Hollywood – Emmy Award Winner Zendaya as Marie and Golden Globe Nominee John David Washington as Malcolm.
So what happens when we see a madly in love couple without the flowers and blooms? What happens when the color fades and the night becomes immensely tense as the two expose the ugly truth? Do we become uncomfortable because we see ourselves? Do we randomly crave mac n cheese? There’s a lot to unpack from this Oscar buzzed film as Sam Levinson also found a way to connect worlds from Euphoria. If you’ve watched HBO’s Euphoria Special Episode of Rue, Ali briefly speaks about his relationship with his daughters – Marie and Imani.
” It is an actors dream to be able to have that much dialogue and just be with another actor to create those moments together.”-ZENDAYA
Sam Levinson’s classic Hollywood setting and cinematography immediately captured the audience’s attention. When the official trailer was released, many argued that a black and white film can jeopardize the audience’s perspective of a story. However, this theatrical feature allowed Levinson’s dialogue to shine as the true colors were within Malcolm and Marie. The movie begins with a black filmmaker (Malcolm) and his girlfriend (Marie) returning home from an eventful evening. What was supposed to be a celebratory night took a drastic turn after Marie revealed her issue with Malcolm.
The Story Of Love
The filmmaker forgetting to thank Marie during his movie premiere speech became the plot that led to everlasting subplots. In this story of love, we experience unfiltered conversations and toxic traits within a relationship. The plot thickens when we discover Malcolm’s entire movie was about Marie’s life as a recovering drug addict. Although Malcolm denies the fact, she was indeed his muse. With this beautifully crafted dialogue, we began to see raw emotions and tense monologues. The madly in love couple allowed stubbornness to send them on an emotional rollercoaster. Their main issue was codependency, yet there were moments that created a cool balance of calmness between the two. Those moments told us a story as to why the two loved one another. Marie has a perfect amount of wittiness that keeps Malcolm grounded. When Malcolm lets go of his ego he becomes gentle with Marie and supports her. The moments between them are personal – we are the eavesdroppers witnessing a conversation that would never be discussed in public.
After the argument about Malcolm forgetting to thank Marie, the two debate about the lack of jealousy Malcolm possesses. It is the root of Marie’s concerns in Malcolm not fighting for her in the relationship. The two hash it out with tense points. Our emotions are triggered when Malcolm begins to verbally abuse Marie with every point she made about having her own life without depending on him. The truth is, Malcolm could not do things without Marie. The plot deepens as Marie serves Malcolm with a classic read. She calls out his privileged background and his inability to write a story without her being the muse. What drove Malcolm to emotional unstableness was Marie’s comment about his mediocracy. Malcolm exposes his past with other women and exposes Marie’s sketchy past.
Although the story has two characters, the multidimensional couple portrays many roles. Malcolm was obnoxious but just as vulnerable as Marie. It was triggering to see him being so caught up in his world that he disregarded the pain in Marie’s world. Malcolm also sees love as a power to control. His past relationships proved that he loves for all the wrong reasons. A pivotal subplot in this film was Malcolm’s issues with white movie critics. Some may argue that this took away from the actual story but it is important to see this perspective from a filmmaker or any artist. There’s always room for a critic to speak but never room for an artist to rightfully define their art – especially a black filmmaker. As much as we see Malcolm fight for his art and other things, his monologue about the movie critic exposes him. Malcolm is just afraid! He’s afraid of what’s next…that fear bled into the relationship as well. His response to a jazzy and decent review drove him to the edge because he just wants to be seen as a great filmmaker and fear he never will be.
John David Washington made us believe every word as he portrayed this character. From the twisted jabs to the movement and blocking, Washington executed Malcolm in a way that no one else could. This film showcased Washington’s ability to make us laugh in the darkest moments but also trigger frustration in a matter of seconds. The Blackkklansmen actor dominated every aspect of emotions. His portrayal was raw and keyword – AUTHENTIC. Washington has an aura that is mesmerizing. He steps on the scene and we know that he’s there to deliver. He is an actor that continues to perfect his craft.
There were moments where it became exhausting. There were moments where we felt everything in our chest – Marie did not go down without a fight. We cried with Marie and we felt seen because of her. Marie is a woman that is no stranger to pain. She allows herself to be vulnerable but she also possesses control. In the scene above, she expressed that she never really knew how to be loved and Malcolm took advantage of that. She has an ongoing battle in her head to be soft and gentle but to also challenge someone when something is not right – even when it hurts her to do so. Although she just wanted a thank you, she also wanted Malcolm to fight for her just as much as he fought for his work. Perhaps she wanted to argue with Malcolm in the beginning…the way she leaves her dress on to reel him in. The way she deliberately sends him subliminal shots after he was too busy being caught up in his own world.
Zendaya as Marie is now one of the best leading lady debuts. As a former Disney star, many people see the 24-year-old as the little sister everyone loves. There were concerns about her and Washington’s age difference in this movie however the Euphoria star is letting the world know that she is a grown woman. Zendaya brilliantly delivered an outstanding performance as Marie by embracing every emotion of the character. It was liberating – an honest and raw portrayal. The “acting on top of the acting” in the “knife scene“ of this movie was out of this world. The intense scene of Marie grabbing the knife and addressing Malcolm was a defining moment in the film.
The acting, the dialogue, the music, and the cinematography made this film a masterpiece. The message in this movie is the icing on the cake. Malcolm & Marie is not a film for everyone. It can be triggering, exhausting, and overbearing. But life is an imitation of art and the truth is, we all have our ugly moments and moments where we need to leave toxicity behind. We can see so much of ourselves in the two characters as much as we try to deny it. Something that seems so small to you can really mean a lot to those who love you. We take many things in life for granted especially our loved ones…hold on to them for dear life.
“If there’s anything to learn from this year, and I hope from this little movie, it’s gratitude for every moment and every person we get to love.”– Zendaya via Instagram
The ending of this film was a perfect reflection of the message. Yes, we do not know what’s next for Malcolm and Marie but maybe that’s something the movie is asking us. It is a moment of reflection for ourselves. It is a moment to ask yourself – what would you do in this relationship? What can you do better as a person and as a loved one?
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