A Review of ‘Malcolm and Marie’

The new drama starring Zendaya and John David Washington reveals the ugliness that can be found within love.


Unsplash / Jacob Owens

The lead stars in ‘Malcolm and Marie’ not only acted in the film but were also given the opportunity to direct and to produce portions of the film, adding a personal touch to their roles.

From first glance at the trailer of the new film ‘Malcolm and Marie,’ the audience gets a glimpse of the rocky relationship between Malcolm and Marie. We hear them go from criticizing each other’s character to praising the way their partner sees life and love as a whole. In marketing their relationship, the film is not sold as a “love story” but as a story “about love,” which I think speaks to why the characters can seemingly hurt each other in the worst way possible but then celebrate the best aspects of each other.  The film’s producer Sam Levinson stated that he was trying to portray the rawness of love and how it is not always sunshine and peaches. 

It begins with the stillness of Malcolm and Marie’s home. The two pull in the front driveway and walk inside on possibly the biggest night of Malcolm’s life. He just wrote and produced a movie that was beloved by critics and won him an award. Some critics even say he has the potential to be the next Spike Lee. Still in this state of exultation from the night’s events, the two step inside and listen to music, while Malcom screams over the bass to Marie that she’s beautiful. All is seemingly well until it is not, and we never return to the solemness that the movie opened with. 

As Marie decides to make macaroni and cheese for the two, an argument begins. They both plead not to have an argument tonight, but it’s too late. Malcolm asks if something is wrong, and Marie says she’s fine, but he will not take this for an answer. Malcolm pushes and pushes until Marie breaks and says “you didn’t thank me.” She explains that in his award speech amongst thanking all those who helped him to get there he forgot her, and it stung quite badly.

Naturally, one might assume that after some bickering, the two would ultimately mend things and move on. But it is not nearly that simple. This fight sets the tone for the rest of the film. The two go back and forth between shouting grievances at each other. There was no de-escalation present and that is why this fight continued all the way through the night until sometime in the early morning hours. 

It’s important to understand that as this one fight happens and the two argue, layers of their anger and frustration are peeled back one by one until the two are exhausted and hurt by the end of the movie.

I will not discuss every argument, but it should be said that at times, there was confusion about who to root for and who was in the right. Yet, I believe that the biggest question I found myself asking was why were these two even together in the first place? As they unpack the unpleasant and hurtful thoughts and feelings that they have about each other, it becomes clear that the film just served as their battleground, and that there was no clear recovery between the two. Even at the end of the film, the plot is not clarified, and the couple never figure out a way to avoid the problems of the evening that has just occurred. They just sit in silence and go to sleep hoping that the next day will not be as bad as the last night.

It would also be unfair to say the entire two hours is just depictions of them arguing. Around the middle of the film is when we start to learn about the love that these two have for each other. Malcolm shares how he loves the way Marie loves and just the way that she views life as a whole, especially after all that she been through. In turn, Marie reassures Malcolm that she is his backbone and believes that his film was incredible and that he earned his celebration, and more. At one point, we even see the two sprawled out on the floor just smiling and laughing with one another. But these scenes never last for more than two minutes before the warmth they showed each other is pushed out by the very apparent coldness and anger that that they have been harboring.

It was made clear that although the movie was lackluster in its vision, it is not at the fault of actors Zendaya or John David Washington. It is the film’s director Sam Levinson who is responsible for the movie’s lack of substance, as he has been able to write well for Zendaya in past films such as Euphoria, but ultimately the actors’ hard work did not quite pay off within the film itself.

 The film’s producer Sam Levinson stated that he was trying to portray the rawness of love and how it is not always sunshine and peaches.