MALCOLM & MARIE (2021)
Enlivened performances from Zendaya and John David Washington are not enough to distract from the directionless script that boils down to two individuals yelling at one another.
After the premiere of his latest film, a filmmaker (Washington) returns home with his girlfriend (Zendaya) as the evening quickly devolves into an argument filled with vicious attacks and revelations about their relationship. The novelty of being the first film writer, financed, and produced during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is enough to make Malcolm & Marie an intriguing watch, but viewers will quickly find the film challenging to stick with. Zendaya in particular is a force to be reckoned with, delivering each line with gusto and intention. Washington is much the same, though his character starts out unlikable and never evolves, quite like the direction of the film which ultimately feels rather stale by mid-runtime. Bursts of narrative about race, Hollywood, and the dynamics of a relationship are fleeting and often overshadowed by repeated lulls in storytelling.
Though writer/director Sam Levinson has produced a gorgeous black-and-white feature that utilizes simple camera movements to help advance the narrative, the point is lost on me as to why this gimmicky decision was made. What Malcolm & Marie does prove, however, is that Zendaya is an absolute star, putting those Disney Channel days way behind her as she continuously challenges herself in diverse roles. She works with what she is given here, as messy as the script is, and plays off of Washington with skill often seen only in actors well beyond her years.
Malcolm & Marie is not terrible by any means, but it certainly doesn’t know how to fit the many ideas it has into anything cohesive. Check it out today on Netflix.
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