By Ben Lindner, Staff Writer
[Little Lamb Productions; 2021]
The first 10 minutes of Malcolm & Marie are pretty interesting. The two characters have a realistic argument with strong performances from Zendaya and John David Washington. The black and white cinematography is cool. The title card hits and I thought “maybe I’ll like this.” Then it was the same 10 minutes I had just watched over and over again for another hour and a half.
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It’s clear what Malcolm & Marie is going for. It’s one long fight between a filmmaker (Washington) and his wife (Zendaya) after the big premiere of Malcolm’s new movie. The film was shot during the pandemic, so it features only the two lead actors and is shot in one location. These limitations were an opportunity to create something interesting but instead created only a film limited by it’s situation.
Writer and director Sam Levinson fails to take his lofty goals from the page to a compelling drama on the screen. Instead, it devolves into a series of monologues so long and unlike real human conversation that they lose all meaning. The fight becomes monotonous and makes you desperately wait for it to end.
Despite the flaws in the script, it is hard to deny that the performances in Malcolm & Marie are anything but phenomenal. John David Washington is excellent as Malcolm, but the real star of the show is Zendaya, who proves that she is capable of not only starring in any kind of material she is given, but thriving in it. The strong performances are not enough to save this movie and really make it compelling, but they are excellent and certainly as good as anyone could have done with this script and under Levinson’s direction.
Malcolm & Marie is an ambitious film that frustratingly proves incapable of provoking any compelling thought. It talks and talks but says nothing, feeling like the climax of a good movie stretched out to be the whole movie without anything else propping it up. Great performances and good cinematography can’t elevate this piece to something that is worth the time it takes to watch it.
Watch the trailer here: