If you’re currently craving a little more drama in your life (because the pandemic hasn’t caused enough chaos for you), then you may be considering checking out new Netflix movie, Malcolm & Marie. Directed by Sam Levinson, and starring John David Washington and Zendaya, the movie focuses on a tumultuous relationship between a young couple, who get into an argument following an important night out.
Filmed during lockdown and shot entirely in black and white, the movie sees the titular Malcolm and Marie return to their home following the premiere of a new movie. The movie is Malcolm’s picture, which he wrote and directed.
Although this should be a time of pure elation, the couple get into a war of words regarding an incident from earlier in the evening. Malcolm made a speech thanking everyone that helped make his movie become a reality, yet he failed to mention Marie when dishing out praise.
Over the next couple of hours the pair exchange venomous comments about the situation, leading to a greater exploration of their feelings. And as the conversation gets more heated, they touch upon deeper issues within their relationship which could test their future together.
Now, if all that sounds like something you want to dive head first into then Netflix has Malcolm & Marie all lined up, ready and waiting for you to stream. I can tell you right off the bat that both actors are superb, and if you are looking for an aesthetically pleasing feature, this is a beautifully shot picture.
However, if you’re thinking this all sounds a little intense, and bit like two hours of two people arguing over and over and over again, then you’re not wrong – this is exactly what Malcolm & Marie is. This is a film in which the focus is placed on a volatile relationship on the verge of breaking down, and it all plays out in real time.
In essence, this movie is akin to a drunken argument between you and your partner, that takes place at 3 a.m. after a night out clubbing. One of you wanted to stay out until 4, the other wanted to go get chicken burger & chips, and you’ve argued about this all the way home.
If you’re lucky, it’s a minor issue and quickly forgotten about as soon as you step through the front door. If you’re not so lucky, the argument continues until 5:30 a.m. where it develops into a worrying debate about why you didn’t fold a towel three years ago.
If this has never happened to you, and you have remained argument-free, then you have lived a more carefree life – well done. But if this has happened to you, and you are more than familiar with this scenario, then I have to ask, why the heck would you want to watch something like this on your television?
OK, so in the movie, Malcolm and Marie aren’t arguing over a chicken burger or a towel, but they might as well be. Because despite the topics they cover (addiction, infidelity, erm… movie criticism), the film is essentially a succession of raised voices and sad faces from start to finish.
Now if you’re going to centre your movie around this, Zendaya and John David Washington are certainly the actors you cast. Both bring a sense of realism and believability to the story, and they really know how to hold the audience’s attention.
Regardless of any issues I have with the story, these two keep everything flowing and don’t put a foot wrong. Even when I started to find the arguing repetitive, I was still transfixed by the actors.
This movie is entirely a two-hander – at no point does any other actor appear on screen – so these guys are essentially the glue that holds everything together. Not only do they maintain momentum, they also made me feel as if I was in the room with them for the whole movie.
In fact, at times I felt uncomfortable watching the arguments, as if I was eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. I almost expected both actors to break the fourth wall and tell me to get the heck out of their kitchen.
Of course, they didn’t say a word to me (cowards!) and I continued watching. It all felt very voyeuristic, but I made it to the end, where I rightly applauded their dedication to the craft, thanked them for their time, wished them all the best for the future… then promptly made the decision to never watch Malcolm & Marie again.
Great performances? Yes. Thought-provoking? Maybe. Gorgeous to look at? Without doubt. But all a bit self-indulgent, pretentious, and miserable? Most definitely.
Watching Malcolm & Marie I was reminded that many years ago, shortly after a significant break-up, I went to see a play about a couple who were in a long-term relationship. At the beginning of the play, the couple broke up and I had to watch what was essentially a recreation of my recent circumstances play out on stage – heartbreak, tears, and everything in between.
Once the play was over, I didn’t feel like I had watched something cathartic, which allowed me to move on, instead I felt as if I had seen various years of my life raked over the coals under the pretence of entertainment. But it wasn’t entertaining, it was unnecessary, and the same can be said for Malcolm & Marie.
On a technical level there is something here, but beyond that it is difficult to like a film about an emotionally angry couple. Pandemic or no pandemic, there’s enough misery in the world and some conversations can stay behind closed doors, or off my Netflix ‘watch list’.
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