Malcolm & Marie [Grade: C-]

Director: Sam Levinson

Cast: Zendaya & John David Washington

* * *

As the late Aretha Franklin said in an interview when asked to give her opinion on a string of singers, “Beautiful Gowns.” This is #MalcolmAndMarie. There are definitely some good things that came through with this film, but in totality… … eh, I am extremely uncomfortable to say that I am a little disappointed because I genuinely enjoy both of these actors. 

* * *

Below are my grades for key components in #MalcolmAndMarie that I find to be key in any story/film—Theme, Plot, Pacing, and Character Arc/Development. I think it is also important for me to add that moving forward, I will not include a plus-rating in my breakdown, but will continue with minus-ratings.

Additionally, I have added an entertainment factor scale to help you determine whether or not the film is something you’d be interested in taking time out of your weekend, evening, or day to watch. The scale range consists of: Worth the Watch, Interesting Enough (if looking for something new to start), & Don’t Rush.

I have also added a few non-spoiling thoughts, wonderings, and comments as I watched the film to help give some rationale for my grades and entertainment scale. 

* * *

Theme: B

Plot: D

Pacing: C-

Character Arc/Development: D

Entertainment Factor: Don’t Rush

* * *

Takeaways:

  1. The purpose behind doing a “confined drama,” as termed on BFI.org, is meant to help audiences get a very close and critical insight to the psychological movements of characters in the scene. This is possibly one of VERY few, well done aspects of this film. You definitely get this pretty compelling display of toxicity that can occur within some relationships. 👍🏾

2. And for emphasis, from point #1, YES the level of toxicity and trauma in this film is astronomical. 👀😳

3. AND to then piggyback off of #2, one thing I said to myself about 20 or so minutes into the toxic visuals was, “this ‘reason’ for their situation is proof that not every disagreement or issue is entertaining… this is a rather boring, escalated situation…”🥴

4. Another glow from this film is the performances. The style really gives us a chance to see what John David Washington and Zendaya can truly do as actors. I appreciated the film allowing the platform to showcase their art. 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👍🏾

5. The visuals/cinematography was subtly stunning. From the very start, there was an aura of art appreciation to be anticipated. 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾❤️

6. To piggyback off of point #4, the only real reason I was able to get through the entire film (because I definitely had a moment where I thought to myself, “should I turn this off?”) is because I was invested in the journey of the performances…👍🏾👍🏾

7. …I was also invested to see and hope that there would be some turn of event to help add some much needed texture, and I was further disappointed. 😔

8. I found myself at one point wanting, or expecting, a certain outcome; but it never happened. I think this was also a very well done and intentional component to the film that speaks to the language in the trailer. 🥴👍🏾

9. Out of the 2, I was drawn to John David Washington more. If anything, his performance should be talked about this year. It was truly amazing (especially after recently seeing his character in #Tenet, I was SO proud). 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾🙌🏾

10. Meanwhile, Zendaya did a great job, but I honestly couldn’t get Rue out of my head….and this is for more reasons than the one I am going to mention here—her delivery. On numerous occasions, I felt like I was listening to an intelligent teenager or college freshman fight with an older person or lover—i.e. an aspect of her character, Rue. And maybe that was supposed to be the case? I am not sure… but I didn’t like it because it didn’t allow us to see a different side to Zendaya’s acting ability. 🤷🏾‍♂️🥴

11. Another thought I had was that this could have been a really cool, 45-60 minute Black Mirror episode with a twist on the end. Everything about how we are sort of put immediately, albeit blindly, on top of their elephant in the room just said, “you gotta wait til the end for your cerebral to be twisted when we piece it all together.” I actually think this as an intentional short film would have been better. 🥴

12. However, in response to point #3, I do feel that the pacing helped to actually give this situation more purpose for the theme. So I definitely appreciated how this “boring” situation escalated to actually exposing something much deeper in their relationship. 👍🏾

13. Chile… the mac and cheese level of the situation… … … I sorta got what was trying to be done there, but the delivery felt extremely childish… and again, maybe this was also the point… 🥴

14. To piggyback off of #12, the foundation of the actual argument itself was childish. 👎🏾

15. I forgot to say this in my #Tenet review, but John David Washington always has a really nice manicure. I think I’m always going to be checking for hands now. 🤣🤷🏾‍♂️

16. The first 10 minutes of seeing them both on the screen made me smile. I had joy seeing  them look so beautiful. I had joy from watching John David Washington’s character celebrate joy. Joy from simply seeing Zendaya just walk up the stairs and give this very grown up character (that didn’t last long, though). Joy from seeing this image of “Malcolm and Marie” that felt like setting up a “yin and yang” relationship film. 🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾

17. I liked the dual intentionality behind the music throughout the film. 👍🏾

18. Oh, so we casually using THAT level of vocabulary, huh? Okay. 🤣

19. There is something creatively genius behind the “LA Times” component of the film that I wish the writing allowed to come through in a clearer way. 🤦🏾‍♂️

20. That “music” moment when the tables turned? She so petty. 🤣

21. I found it hilarious that part of the writing seemed to give a sense of how the writer and director might also feel when it comes to critics. 👀🤷🏾‍♂️🙃

* * *

Overall, the best thing about #MalcolmAndMarie is seeing John David Washington and Zendaya’s performance together. I think the film is an independent film, and that’s exactly what you feel in addition to this other feeling of an aspiring writer and director currently in the senior year of his/her theater program—one of the top students, at that—debuting his/her semester final project/play. There seemed to be a lot of creative freedom which seemed to provide a space to attempt this random, road [not] traveled direction with the plot that tried to somehow pepper societal triggers of the millennial audience as a possible hook factor, packaged in beautiful cinematography and topped with great performances as the bow—so a white elephant gift in a pretty box. 

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