Review: Malcolm & Marie

Zendaya and John David Washington are two of Hollywood’s rising stars. Both actors had breakout moments in 2020 – Zendaya gave an award winning performance in HBO’s Euphoria and Washington was the lead in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet.

Writer/director Sam Levinson (Euphoria) brings the two stars together in Malcolm & Marie. It’s a simple story that follows Malcolm (Washington) and Marie (Zendaya) at 1:00AM after the couple returns home from Malcolm’s movie premiere. A conversation between the two quickly begins to unearth issues in their relationship.

Sam Levinson drops the audience in the middle of this relationship on the biggest night of Malcolm’s life. The script zooms in on the initial argument started by question raised by Marie, but as the night goes on, the script gives more contexts to the complicated relationship between Malcolm and Marie.

From Tenet to BlacKkKLansman, John David Washington has let the world know he is a leading man. His portrayal of Malcolm is different than anything he’s done previously and the most liberated and relaxed he’s looked on screen. He’s able to give Malcolm layers through the tone he uses delivering his lines. During the bathtub scene there is a side of Malcolm that’s revealed. It’s a nasty cutthroat conversations that happens in some relationships.  It feels like that part of his personality was always bubbling underneath the surface, but this conversation allowed him to be his true self.

As great as Washington is, Zendaya is the star of the film and it’s not even close. She says so much during the opening scenes with just her eyes, posture, and the way she answers questions. During the aforementioned bathtub scene, Zendaya has very few lines but gives the best performance of the film in those moments.  All of Marie’s emotions are in her eyes and a little lip quiver. This type of performances is why she is a star and the best is yet to come.

The brilliance of Levinson’s film is there isn’t an emphasis on who “wins” or who was wrong or right. The film is not a love story  and never pretends to be. It is, however, a story about love – and those stories aren’t always cute and fun.  At its core, it’s a film about how detached people can be in relationships, the importance of communication, and how challenging it is to keep a relationship together.

Malcolm & Marie is not a date night movie. It’s a 90-minute long argument that makes audiences feel like the third wheel on a very bad date. The film’s performance keep you locked into the story. Some of the conversations are harsh and unsettling, but as painful as those scenes are, they breathe life into the film. It’s very real and at times a little too real. 

During one scene Malcolm plays I Forgot To Be Your Lover by William Bell. The second verse goes as follows:

Have I taken the time to share with you
All the burden that love will fare?
And have I done the little simple things to show you
Just how much I care?
Oh, I’ve been workin’ for you, doin’ all I can
To work all the time didn’t make me a man

If Malcolm & Marie could be condensed into one verse, that would be it. It’s the burden of love and the little simple things you do to show someone you care. 

Grade: B