After writer and director Sam Levinson delivered the masterpiece that is Euphoria to the world, he was under much scrutiny after releasing Malcolm and Marie on Netflix. However, the film generated much attention…and not the good kind.
Malcolm and Marie follows a relationship between an up and coming filmmaker, Malcolm (John David Washington) and his recovered drug addict girlfriend, Marie (Zendaya). Marie had made Malcolm’s career possible by inspiring his new movie. The entire hour and 46 minutes carries through one singular night of arguments and verbal abuse.
The film only received 58% on Rotten Tomatoes and was met with much backlash. Many complained of the movie’s poor production as a result of pandemic filmmaking. In fact, the script was written in six days and shot within a two-week span.
Malcolm & Marie Critiques
Writer Christian Brewster at The Hilltop summed up many commenters’ thoughts by stating “it is clear that Levinson’s ideas, although interesting, needed to be cut down and revised — or at the very least delivered in a way that doesn’t require the audience to be screamed at for nearly two hours.”
Further negative reviews ensured from film critic K. Austin Collins from Rolling Stone saying “turn the movie off at the 20-minute mark and you can ultimately still say you’ve seen the entire thing.”
The relationship at hand has been quoted to show “emotional terrorism” as the entire film only follows these two characters. Furthermore, the film is muted of color and the scenery never changes from the luxurious house the couple is temporarily residing in. The film contains an aggressive amount of profanity that reaches into the triple digits.
The film is practically two battling monologues that go on until the movie ends. The New York Times even described the script as “exhausting” and “deeply unlikeable.” Jeanette Catsoulis from the NYT said “Malcolm may or may not be a megaphone for his director’s personal gripes, but Washington, a charismatically intense and supple performer, is ill-served by speeches that have the cadence and calculation of acting-school exercises.”
Topics Addressed in Malcolm & Marie
It’s close coverage of intimate conversations around a revolving plot similarly mirrors the most recently released episodes of Levinson’s aforementioned other project, Euphoria.
To clarify, Levinson seems to enjoy the close up, raw conversations of human beings spotlighted. And for some viewers, that take couldn’t be less appealing.
The film covers many pressing topics of racism, film industry etiquette, and abusive relationships. The characters question authenticity whether that be in the film industry or engrained within us.
Many have made the assumption that Malcolm himself represents the film industry and Zendaya represents the audience. Reviewers have stated that the entire movie is one large criticism to the film industry, and as The Atlantic put it, “Hollywood’s identity politics.”
Now I’m no movie critic, and though I agree and found the dialogue repetitious, I must say it is worth the watch. I found myself seeing the extent of true toxicity that can brew between humans. Malcolm and Marie’s fluctuating arguments are hard to watch as very harsh assaults are made by both parties. However, the movie provides an interesting approach to shining a light on such pressing topics of our current world.
Overall, what the critics say is not wrong. The movie is two characters going at it for nearly two-hours. The fights are consistent and hard to swallow. But still, I think the movie has much to admire. From Levinson’s writing and direction, along with his other work, I believe he’s breaking down cinematography one project at a time, challenging the canon of the industry and constantly leaving viewers with enough emotion to at least have a very passionate reaction—whether it be negative or positive.
featured image from: Unsplash.com
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