Malcolm & Marie: Netflix Film Review

Malcolm & Marie

I love Zendaya and her work with Sam Levinson on Euphoria so I had high hopes for their lockdown project Malcolm & Marie and went in really wanting to love it. But I had a lot of problems with it.

The film opens with Malcolm (John David Washington) and Marie (Zendaya) coming home from the premiere of his new movie. It has been a great success and looks to be the defining film of his career, so naturally, Malcolm is on cloud nine, but Marie is clearly unhappy about something. Their argument begins because he failed to thank her in his speech, even though she was the inspiration for his film, and escalates from there throughout the night.

Because this film is so simplistic (it’s literally just two people arguing in a house), there is nowhere to hide – you have to bring your A-game or the whole thing falls apart, and thankfully, both leads do. Washington plays this passionate hot-headed man who says hurtful things just for the sake of being mean, but Zendaya is far more effective as her rage is simmering below the surface and she generally keeps her voice quiet and controlled. She is sensational; she shows off her impressive range and is the emotional centre of the story. Washington doesn’t let the side down and serves as a great sparring partner, but his character could have done with more nuance and texture as he was like a bulldozer in comparison to Zendaya’s Marie.

I also loved the concept, how the entirety of the house is used throughout the movie, the music by Labrinth, plus their entrance and initial conversation about the reception to his movie. I enjoyed how their argument evolved and how the power dynamics shifted over the course of the film and I thought Marie was written very well.

However, Levinson’s screenplay loses its way when it goes off on a tangent from the central focus of their relationship. He’s clearly got a lot to say about film critics and there is a section in Malcolm & Marie in which Washington lets rip and goes off on this long stream of consciousness rant about a review and I couldn’t help but feel Levinson was using Malcolm as a stand-in to unleash his personal agenda on a critic in real life. This rant went on far too long and felt unnecessary. This is where I started to lose my patience with the film.

Malcolm & Marie is a trying and exhausting film because you are simply watching a couple arguing, yelling, and verbally abusing each other for almost two hours. There are moments of peace here and there but otherwise, it’s pretty relentless, so the whole thing should have been much shorter. It’s A LOT. I wouldn’t call it an enjoyable watch but I can appreciate many elements about it, most notably Zendaya’s performance. This was clearly designed as a showcase for her talents and what an impressive showcase it is!

Streaming on Netflix from Friday 5th February

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.