Review: Malcolm & Marie (2021)

Malcolm & Marie & Monologues

Do you remember in Jurassic Park (1993) when Dr. Ian Malcolm said, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should?” I firmly believe that someone should have posed that question to Sam Levinson before he decided to make Malcolm & Marie (2021). I completely understand the reasoning behind why he wanted to make this movie and why the choices he made were the choices he made, but girl…those were choices. I realize that sounds very vague and incoherent but honestly, vague and incoherent is kind of the perfect summarization of Malcolm & Marie.

Credit: imdb.com / Netflix

Written and directed by Levinson, Malcolm & Marie tells the story of the titular couple, a director and his girlfriend who return home after the premiere of his newest movie. The pair’s relationship is put to the test as they spend the night in an intense fight that threatens to tear them apart.

From the opening credits I got the feeling that this was going to be a pretentious art film and I was more or less correct. It definitely feels like the work of a film student who got their final project into the big film festival at their school. Or like a “meh” play that you’re forced to review. Trust me, I’ve done that job enough times to know what I’m talking about. Having to keep certain safety measures in mind, it’s legitimately impressive how from a directorial standpoint, Levinson was able to create a movie that looks as good as Malcolm & Marie does. His direction is sleek and cool, and with much of the filming taking place outside and peering into the couple’s house, unlike anything I’ve seen this year. It’s safe to say that Levinson’s direction is inspired and more than worthy of a round of applause. Looking at the movie is a simple pleasure. It’s when you begin to listen to it that the real trouble starts. I’m just saying, I was annoyed within the first 15 minutes. 

Credit: imdb.com / Netflix

Watching Malcolm & Marie is like having dinner at couple’s house and then they unexpectedly start fighting with each other during the appetizers. Unable to escape, you have no choice but to awkwardly sit through their intense screaming match and silently pray that they’re going to settle down by the time dessert is served. Only plot twist, they never really do. Levinson’s script has fleeting moments of entertainment but for the most part it’s mediocre and headache-inducing. As if the entirely forgettable dialogue didn’t make paying attention enough of a chore, the constant repetition will drive you up the wall. Seriously, I was 20 minutes in and Malcolm and Marie had already had the same argument like, six times. The movie goes around and around in circles begging you to ask the question, “what’s the point?” The entire movie is pretty dull and slow so much so that I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to put through themselves watching Malcolm & Marie. Besides seeing Zendaya and John David Washington being exceptional at acting that is.

Credit: imdb.com / Netflix

The movie as a whole may be pretty disappointing but thankfully Zendaya and Washington are phenomenal. Their performances are sensational to watch and the chemistry the pair share is electric to say the least. They’re well-matched as scene partners, perfectly meeting the other no matter what kind of energy they bring to a scene. While as a movie Malcolm & Marie may not amount to much, it rightfully gives its stars the opportunity to showcase their remarkable talents. That’s what the point of this movie is: A showcase in acting. If it weren’t for the top-notch performances this movie would be borderline unwatchable.

Washington is brilliant. As Malcolm, he’s a whirlwind of emotion and I feel everything he’s conveying so intensely. His passion and love for Marie is so clear but so are his fury and frustrations with her. It’s a genuinely stunning performance. Zendaya is a truly great actress. As Marie, she gets to showcase her outstanding range as she plays every emotion from anger, to infatuation, to despair. Make no mistake, her incredible performance in Malcolm & Marie will be a stepping stone for her, opening the door to more complex, adult projects that I can’t wait to see it. 

Credit: imdb.com / Netflix

One of my biggest gripes about Malcolm & Marie is how unrelatable it is. The amount of unnecessary and inconsequential confrontation is overwhelming and at times, feels completely ingenuine. Like, why are you trying to pick a fight right now? Brace yourself for the whiplash you’ll get from the back-and-forth these two will put you through. They’re so hot and cold. One minute they’re completely calm and the next, they’re at each other’s throats without warning. Many times I kept thinking to myself, “oh, they should not be together. This is clearly a toxic relationship. Dump his ass, Marie and take the house!” I suppose anyone who’s dating an artist may find the content somewhat relatable but for me, the biggest message I got was “never date a director.” 

If properly edited, Malcolm & Marie could have been a sucker punch of a short film. But an hour and 45 minutes? I was 38 minutes in and thoroughly exhausted with these two. Many times it feels like this movie should’ve ended already but then you pause it and groan with agitation because you realize there’s still an hour to 45 minutes left. Did Levinson have some kind of bet to see how long he could stretch this razor-thin premise to? The quality is there but the quantity is far too much.

Credit: imdb.com / Netflix

Unfortunately, Malcolm & Marie is not a very good movie. I mean, if you enjoy being being screamed at for an hour and 45 minutes by a pair of petulant children, this is the movie for you. Seriously, I wanted to mute this movie many times. Fairly intolerable, if you plan on watching Malcolm & Marie anytime soon, I have two words for you: Good Luck. 

Have you seen Malcolm & Marie? What did you think? 

Let me know in the comments or on social media! 

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