John David Washington and Zendaya are the only actors in this film from Sam Levinson that arrived on Netflix this past weekend. It is shot in beautiful black and white, and both actors are strong. Unfortunately, the film is chock full of anger and resentment that it is simply an uncomfortable watch,
Malcolm (John David Washington) and Marie (Zendaya) are a couple, returning from Malcolm’s movie premiere, a “tour de force” that was certain to be a rave review from critics. However, as they return to their home, deep seeded issues come to the surface, threatening their relationship.
Both of these characters then proceed to rip into each other with a viciousness and a cruelty that made me really want to shut it off. It was brutal and off-putting. Malcolm was so verbally out of control that you could not help but wonder why Marie would stay with him. It made me think about the abusive relationships out there that are toxic and do damage to people’s self-image. However, Marie had her moments of destructive tendencies as well.
The film also had some strange obsession with a “white woman writer from the L.A. Times” as well as a couple of other critics. She is apparently based on a real person at the LA Times. They spent a lot of time in this movie slamming this writer for her opinions and her criticism. It was really ugly and truly petty. There was so much time donated to the attack on this critic that it feels as if it was nearly as important of a plot point as anything that came out of these two people’s mouths.
Malcolm & Marie is supposed to be a romantic film, but I did not find anything here romantic. Not even in the least. In fact, this had more moments of me felling dirty and disgusted that someone believed that this is what a relationship had to be. While Zendaya and Washington are really passionate and powerful while delivering their monologues (and oh, there are lots of monologues), there is little character development and I felt nothing in chemistry. In fact, it feels as if the film used some sexual situations and titillating imagery to force the chemistry between them. I never felt it. The anger and vitriol overcame any sensuality. It was an unhealthy relationship and I wanted Marie to just leave the house.
Whatever positives I get from Malcolm & Marie come directly from (to a lesser extent) John David Washington, whose Malcolm is an unlikable, verbally-abusive dick, and (to a greatest extent) Zendaya, whose Marie felt as if she was trying to defend herself more than just be cruel. Zendaya embodied Marie with a lot of sadness and her pain comes across considerably more than any professed love does.
There is just too much bile in this film for me. Bile between the characters and bile towards the “white woman from the LA Times.” It was not an enjoyable experience. Sorry if my criticism offends anyone.