Review by Katie Lynch
Malcolm & Marie is an in-depth look at the nuances of a couple’s relationship directly after Malcolm (John David Washington), a filmmaker, enjoys the successful premiere of his first big movie. We join him and his partner, Marie (Zendaya), as they arrive home from the event and they begin to have the worst fight they’ve ever had. Filmed during the Covid-19 pandemic with limited resources, Malcolm & Marie is a simple story, with a loose narrative, highlighting the fluidity of conversation and argument between two deeply entangled people.
The acting here is the main attraction. It is shot in black-and-white, letting us know that the vibrancy of the characters is the central focus of the film. Zendaya is brilliant, as usual. She gives a sophisticated performance, heightening and softening with ease, and Washington proves himself well-able to hold his own opposite her. The meandering ebb and flow of emotion between the two is engaging, insightful, and – dare I say – authentic, giving the film its raw, intimate feeling. The long shots are some of the most beautiful in the film, framing the characters through windows and doorways either alone or together according to the state of their argument at the time. The film presents two people who can fight so nastily and hurt each other like no one else can, but who can love each other more fiercely than their harsh words can injure.
Overall, Malcolm & Marie has the same energy as a Stewart Lee comedy routine: pretentious, repetitive, funny in a way that makes you wonder why you’re laughing, and eager to point out the hypocrisies and shortcomings of its own audience. When Malcolm and Marie begin to discuss authenticity in filmmaking and the ignorance of film critics, they dare to call out their audience of film lovers as frauds who grasp at the straws of identity politics to appear knowledgeable about the movies they try to discuss. Malcolm & Marie isn’t afraid to make viewers uncomfortable, to make them reflect on their own biases and limitations.
You start watching Malcolm & Marie for Zendaya’s performance, and you stay for the grandiose yet enjoyable chattering in cool greyscale.
Karen from the LA Times.