3.5 out of 5 stars
Despite the world thinking that movie production has ceased to exist over the past few months, we all are wrong. It is impossible to keep artists from making their art and a pandemic is not going to keep them from creating. Sam Levinson, known for the HBO show, Euphoria, decided to write and direct a character play with two of Hollywood’s fastest-rising stars. John David Washington (Tenet) and Zendaya (Spider-man: Homecoming) not only took on the complex roles, but sat in the seat of producers, too.
Movie premieres contain a rush of emotions for filmmakers with their vicious combination of promotion, critique and media attention. These nights tend to be a psychological roller coaster for all involved. With many of the highs of the evening, there is usually an eventual crash. For Malcolm (Washington) this proves to be the case as he arrives home with his girlfriend, Marie (Zendaya), after the successful launch of his latest production. The newly crowned wunderkind of Hollywood is riding the wave of accolades from all involved with the film and local critics. Which causes him to be blind to the evident lack of enthusiasm from the woman he loves, until the reality of the evening sets in for the young director.
As she works in the kitchen to make him some macaroni and cheese, Malcolm begins to notice a frigidity in her actions and looks of disgust. It is this tension that leads to the inevitable question, ‘Is there something wrong? Even though he knows the answer to his query and is the source of her frustration, this question leads to a cascading effect on their conversation and relationship. As Marie begins to open up to her partner, the layers begin to peel away from the pain, anger and fears that have been hiding under the surface of their love/hate affair.
Interestingly, Sam Levinson labels this as a romantic drama, but what it becomes is a psychological character analysis. His screenplay is reminiscent of an emotional horror show that viciously pulls back each painful layer of this couple’s life together. Brilliantly shot in black and white against the beauty of this landmark styled home. This movie is reminiscent of seeing a Jackson Pollock painting that is both beautiful and devastating at the same time.
This also precisely describes the performances of the two actors on screen for every moment of the film. Both manage to capture the personal and icy essence of the screenplay with a masterful precision that can only be described as heart-wrenching and compelling at the same time. Two beautiful people who manage to become indescribably ugly in how they tear apart their relationship and will make anyone question why they remain together at all. The dialogue would make a Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie film seem like a Disney production. It is laden with more foul language than most viewers can handle in one film, but it does add to the artistry.
Malcolm & Marie is purely for the film aficionado who enjoys dissecting cinematic works. Levinson delivers a visually stunning result that can only be performed by well-trained actors who will need extensive psychotherapy afterward. This project needs to be studied by cinephiles, but is not meant for mainstream audiences looking for a romantic drama. Even though no punches were thrown in the production, this one will leave the audience emotionally black and blue in the end.
REEL DIALOGUE: This world is broken and needs fixing, who is going to do it?
To endure a film like Malcolm & Marie will leave many people emotionally battered and bruised, which does question its entertainment value. Yet, it does show us how broken the world is on a very personal level. It should also encourage men and women in abusive relationships to seek help and end the abuse cycle.
Another big question that came to mind while watching this film was 'What is God doing to fix this world?’ This is a story that is played out in homes around the world and others might ask the same thing. A query that has to come with a heightened level of emotion and anger by the person asking it. By telling people that God has a plan in their pain is not comforting and merely has an opposite effect. The answer to the pain inflicted in this film seems to be a bizarre expression of emotional catharsis, because all hope seems lost for these two people. Is the loss of hope the case for all of us?
It is a monumental question that can be answered in the person of Jesus. Not that it is a simple question or answer, but not until you look into his life and death will the answer be evident. Pick up one of his life accounts and see how God answers this multi-layered query with one man.