Intimate, weird and exhausting — those are three words to describe the disappointing film “Malcolm & Marie.” The black and white flick stars Zendaya and John David Washington, and those two names alone should give the audience enough confidence to assume this film would have a good backbone.
The film follows Malcolm (Washington), a filmmaker, and his actress girlfriend Marie (Zendaya) and follows them throughout the night as they get home from Malcolm’s latest movie premiere. Malcolm’s film is based on Marie’s life as a recovering drug addict.
Because the plot of “Malcolm & Marie” was based around very few characters, the dialogue of the film got old after a while. Although Washington and Zendaya gave excellent performances, the film, unfortunately, falls victim to the trap of repetitiveness. Sure, there are moments that stick out, but all in all the whole movie just blurred together.
The cinematography was a highlight of the film. The audience rarely saw over-the-shoulder shots or close-ups of the actors’ faces. Rather, the camera was mostly placed so the two actors were in the frame and had more room to move around the screen. The camerawork made the film feel more intimate and forced the viewers to focus all their attention on the actors.
However, the constant fighting between Malcolm and Marie was exhausting. While the dialogue was realistic, the language was somewhat verbally abusive, and it got tiring. The couple had a good moment, then argued for 30 minutes, then gave each other space. The cycle repeated several times.
When the film was announced, the 12 year age gap between Zendaya and Washington was controversial. Despite their age difference, Zendaya was able to bring a maturity that gave her the essence of an adult and made Marie feel like she and Malcolm were around the same age.
Throughout the night, as Malcolm is waiting for the reviews of his movie to come in, the couple has many discussions about the characters and how much of the couple’s real-life inspired the film. During one scene in the film, Malcolm discusses how each critic believes he was trying to be political with his film because he’s a Black director, but he says he wasn’t trying to be. It was insightful for the film to give a perspective on how Black people view the film industry and how hard some of them have to work just to get the slightest recognition.
Overall, Washington and Zendaya gave excellent performances. However, the fact that the film had to rely solely on the two actors and their continuous back-and-forth caused the film to get boring after a while. The audience doesn’t learn much other than the couple’s toxicity, and they both have a lot of personal issues that they need to work through.
The ending doesn’t give the audience any closure on these issues. There’s no indication the characters have learned anything or that they are willing to work on their toxic qualities. It simply ends with them looking out into the distance together, leaving the audience to wonder if the whole night of fighting was even worth it.