Romantic relationships are tricky, but imagine having the added complication of trying to navigate those emotions being a showbiz couple. THAT is a whole new set of circumstances that test even the most sensible, stable of the human race. A showbiz couple has to do that tightrope of treading lightly, especially concerning commentary around their work or criticism thereof. Meet Malcolm (John David Washington) and Marie (Zendaya), who after spending an interesting evening at Malcolm’s film premiere return home engaging in a verbal sparring session about love, relationships, as well as, placing a glaring spotlight on what attracts them to each other, as well as, what makes them crazy. And, yes, it all goes down over a bowl of Mac & Cheese.
Directed by Sam Levinson, Malcolm & Marie gave me vibes of a Black George & Martha from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” only the vitriol being spewed and savored is between a young 20’s Black Hollywood couple. He (Malcolm) calls her broken and destructive, but at the same time lifts her up declaring undying love complete with a heartfelt, knelt by the tub, explanation. Marie is like a calculating serpent waiting for the precise moment to strike and kill? Why? She’s just a little salty that after all they’ve been through, her man didn’t take the opportunity to extend thanks to the woman who has literally “stood by her man” declaring, “…you are so good at fighting…why didn’t you fight for me.”
Fight is exactly what they do for the nearly 106 minute running time. Every intense moment ranging from comical, poignant, real & raw in its purest form resonates through one’s consciousness thanks to the performances of Zendaya and John David Washington, but not without credit to the direction/screenplay of the amazingly gifted Sam Levinson.
Shot entirely in B&W, the audience is forced to focus on the performances, dialogue, soundtrack choices making it interesting to watch. Washington, in my humble opinion, turns in his career best performance. A performance complimented by the full tilted energy of Zendaya, who I have pleasurably witnessed blossom from a child star at Disney to a respected Hollywood leading lady. The range they exude is exciting to behold as a gift from two of our brightest African American Hollywood talent.
Malcolm and Marie is a film that reveals discovery of one’s self, of each other and even a zoom lens on the world these characters navigate in and around. Just like life, it can be unkind, unwarranted, unwanted and unrealistically wild. Similarly, his leading man and woman, Sam Levinson pulls no punches, especially during a Malcolm “rant” speaking of journalists flexing about their education…particularly film critics. It is one of the more pivotal, most talked about, critical (no pun intended) moments of the film and not without its venom and vigor. It’s kinda like what Erykah Badu says about her artistry, “…I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my sh*t.”
I love a film that keeps you on your toes and leaves you perplexed, invigorated and overwhelmed to the point you can’t wait to discuss with your peers and constituents about all of it. Netflix’s Malcolm and Marie is that film for me. In short, I totally dug it and clearly witness this piece for the artistic sparring session it was intended for in a celluloid landscape devoid of color, but oozing with spice, grit layered with all the complexities that being in love can encapsulate.