Title: Malcolm and Marie
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Sam Levinson
Starring: John David Washington, Zendaya
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
What It Is: Sam Levinson’s black-and-white drama stars John David Washington and Zendaya in the title roles. He’s a filmmaker who relentlessly spars with his failed actress-turned-model girlfriend after forgetting to thank her in a speech at the premiere of his seminal film (which is partially based on her life). Meditations on race, artistry, authenticity, love, and abuse ensue.
What We Think:
(The scene is in black-and-white. SAM LEVINSON is aggressively eating Kraft Mac and cheese, reading some of the reviews for his latest film on his phone. All of a sudden, he sees something that displeases him. He calls out to his wife. According to Google, her name is Ashley).
(ASHLEY slinks into the room in a Yves Saint Laurent dress).
What is it, Sam?
The white girl from Film Snob Reviews wrote this dumb-ass review of my movie.
What’d she say?
Well, she says John David and Zendaya are great.
What’s next….she says she likes the soundtrack…..oh! That’s it. She says that it’s emotionally hollow. She says that it’s “Dollar Tree John Cassavetes.” Now, why is it that she has to compare me to John Cassavetes? Is it because I’m white? Tell me, why not the next Haile Gerima? I doubt she even knows who Haile Gerima is.
I don’t know who Haile Gerima is.
Now, she’s saying that the arguments feel contrived after a while. But isn’t all of cinema contrived? Cinema doesn’t have to be real. It’s about what you do with reality.
And she’s saying that Malcolm’s monologues went on for too long? Isn’t that the point of cinema, too? To stretch the meaning of time? Time is essentially fluid in film, baby. I hate these dumb-ass critics trying to flex their college degrees by saying that they know who Ida Lupino is, and therefore Malcolm’s monologues name-dropping different filmmakers come across as pretentious and poorly written. Pretentious and poorly written, my ass. I know you know who Ida Lupino is. The fucking white girl from Film Snob Reviews, man.
She’s never liked your work, though.
I don’t give a fuck. Netflix paid me 30 million dollars for this shit.
(ASHLEY smiles and sighs with affectionate exasperation. Slow fade-out as Sam Cooke’s “Soothe Me” plays).
Our Grade: C-, I really wanted to like this movie. I counted the days down until its release on Netflix. I am an ardent fan of the “couple yelling at each other” genre, and I had heard that Sam Levinson’s newest piece begged comparison to John Cassavetes.
Cassavetes, sweetie, I’m so sorry.
It is well-acted and handsome, but has the emotional depth of an “Am I the Asshole” shitpost on Reddit. Both characters are markedly unsympathetic, despite the actors’ best efforts. Despite their lack of likability, they are not human enough to be antiheroes. This is a fake movie about fake people with fake emotions. It is an effective showcase for Zendaya–as well as for Washington, my future husband, for whom I will make a decidedly less dry plate of Mac and cheese someday. However, it is not an Oscar-caliber auteur piece; it just plays one on TV.