REVIEW: MALCOLM AND MARIE (2021)

John David Washington and Zendaya in Sam Levinson’s ‘Malcolm and Marie.’
Netflix

“You know what, Malcolm, if you’re gonna treat me like an insane person and call me fucking crazy, the least you could do is do it without casually eating macaroni and cheese.”

Director Sam Levinson comes back after his successful HBO drama, Euphoria. In an effort to create something during the lockdown, and the inability to work on Euphoria season 2, Levinson set his sights on a confined project taking a look at an evening between a young married couple.

Malcolm & Marie, our two main characters, are first seen walking into their secluded home in Los Angeles. Director Malcolm has just premiered his big movie, and he’s up to his ears in telling Marie about what happened as if she wasn’t even there. Marie, on the other hand gives her husband a series of short responses as she makes her man a delicious bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. It’s the most brilliant making of macaroni since Brad Pitt in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Where joy and exhilaration should be, instead there’s a strain between the couple, but you don’t seem to know why.

The ramblings from Malcolm never cease as he’s running on pure adrenaline — dancing around the house to James Brown’s “Down and Out in New York City.” The tension can be cut with a knife, and becomes hostile when Marie can no longer mask her dissatisfaction of the evening’s events. More importantly, the fact that he didn’t thank her in his speech. Even throughout their arguments, you can see the couple are two halves of the same whole. They’re equally miserable about the other’s deep seeded need for something, while refusing to really acknowledge the other in order to repair the relationship. Instead they go through ups and downs throughout the night, like a child plucking the peddles off a flower saying, “he loves me. He loves me not.”

Zendaya is unbelievable as Marie. She’s sophisticated, cool. But she’s also vulnerable, as you can see with her character’s past with substance abuse. But in no way does Marie’s past brokenness cause her to be a victim to Malcolm’s large presence. And when the two go at it regarding the “inspiration” for Malcolm’s screenplay, which she believes is taken from her past, Marie fires back at Malcolm’s ludicrous claims. John David Washington, now in the thick of his recent success, is great next to Zendaya. The chemistry between them adequately presents the struggling marital issues at play.

Although the constant fighting could lead one to believe that this is your standard story of a couple’s problems with one another, Levinson’s true ideals may lie beneath the surface. The antics continue into the early morning stopping their brief “I love you session” when Malcolm receives reviews for his film. Malcolm, in his pretentious look at the film industry, questions an LA Times critic’s “masterful” review of his movie. The positive remarks send him down a rabbit hole, in pure soapbox fashion, to give his two cents about the overused description of politics in black films. It’s an interesting and understandable sentiment. However, it’s hard for me to digest Malcolm’s ideology when it comes to his classification of newer films — especially since our screenwriter is a white man. Here comes Marie putting a stop to her man’s BS. She calls him out in more than one occasion seeing the blind hypocrisy in Malcolm’s long-winded statements. “You love political movies, Malcolm,” Marie says. The constant back and forth only speaks to one’s point of view: Levinson’s, and his own argument against the critics who review his work. The relationship of husband versus wife is like creator versus critic. It’s a constant battle, but at times the opposite view is needed.

The film markets itself as not being a “love story,” and that couldn’t be closer to the truth. As I previously said, Malcom and Marie are two halves of the same whole. They’re meant for each other in this chaotic world. Each one is equally psychotic, but rambles and invests in their own self pleasures without considering the other. The hills and valleys of their constant screaming matches measures that of a fighting game you’d play. I’m surprised the voices didn’t say, “Round One. Fight,” between every lull in their irreprehensible comments to one another. However, Malcolm & Marie, like a carousel you can’t get off, forcibly drags the viewers into their spat. To put it honestly, it gets old extremely fast. You can choose to look at this in its simplistic “a couple is having an argument” way, or you can look at it through Levinson’s POV towards the overbearing critics, dissecting his creation to the point. No matter how you look at this, I think we can all agree that Malcolm & Marie is just a bit tedious to watch.