A Quarantine Double Feature, Part 1: Malcolm & Marie

The Stream: Superficial, self-centered blathering mess for almost 2 hours.

The Big Screen: Zendaya and some nice music cues add a spark every now and then.

The Final Bill: While some elements are fine, the overall result is dull and repetitive.

– Trip Fontaine
Director: Sam Levinson
Writers: Sam Levinson
Stars: John David WashingtonZendaya
Genre: DramaRomance 
Rating: R
Runtime: 1 hour 40 minutes
Platform: Netflix (Release: February 5)

Remember when you were out in public – when we could go out in public – and you notice a couple within earshot having a “discussion.” You’re not really doing anything, so you get really quiet so that you can eavesdrop on their back and forth. He says something crazy, and she has a ready comeback. You lean your ear a bit closer, but you’re casual about it so they don’t notice your nosiness. If it’s really juicy, you may get really lost in it and grab some popcorn, but really after about 10 minutes or so, you’re bored and you move on to your own life. Malcolm & Marie is that but you’re stuck listening to the couple argue for almost 2 hours – well after the initial interest has waned. Malcolm & Marie is this week’s big Netflix premiere starring John David Washington and Zendaya in the film produced during last year’s COVID-induced lockdown. Here’s how I found it.

Malcolm & Marie was written and directed by Sam Levinson, who is the creator of HBO’s “Euphoria”. Shot in lush black and white, John David Washington plays Malcolm, a director, whose latest film premiered this night and was well-received; and, Zendaya plays Marie, the director’s girlfriend, who comes home after the premiere with tension boiling within. The film is a series of arguments throughout the night between Malcolm and Marie about art, criticism, and the various issues in their relationship. A lot of shouting, primarily from Washington – monologues, pontification, and talk and talk and talk all contained in the rooms of this home.

First things first, Zendaya is special. She really can infuse her characters and lines with feeling and energy even when they don’t deserve it. Marie is a fine character, but there’s not much to it but a sparring partner with Malcolm. Zendaya does her best to give it more and succeeds most of the time. Malcolm is a self-centered, egomaniac and Washington plays into that well enough. The problem with Malcolm is that there is so much talking and shouting that it becomes unbearable. Why is Marie even still there?

Secondly, interspersed through all of the talking are some good music cues. The music gives a good respite to the arguing, but it also is supposed to fill in some of those emotional gaps. It is used well and not overdone. The real problem here is that there’s no urgency to anything these people talk about. He’s screaming about his movie and the critics and blah, blah, blah, even as she’s trying to get him to acknowledge her feelings. I was wondering throughout Malcolm & Marie, do I care? When will this be over? And, are these people still fighting? The arguing was just exhausting and not in a good way.

S2S: Official Rating Scale

Ultimately, there’s too much talking and the subject matter of the argument is not interesting, or emotionally fulfilling. This is an argument that you’ll want to check-out of early. Even though Zendaya does her best, I only give Malcolm & Marie one popped popcorn kernel and find something else to stream.