By Michael Bald
Managing and Design Editor
Image courtesy of Netflix
In the apocalyptic blizzard that engulfed Texas several days ago, I scrolled through my watch list on Netflix trying to find a new release to review. I stumbled across a movie featuring former Disney star Zendaya (emphasis on the “former”) and John David Washington. The whole film takes place in one night and revolves around these two actors…literally no one else… for almost two hours. “What do they do?” you may ask. Well, they argue about stuff.
Despite my pessimistic synopsis, “Malcolm & Marie” was actually a visually striking movie that touched on meta themes about art, its creators and its critics.
Washington plays Malcolm, a director who just got back from a screening of his new movie about the tragedy of a woman’s battle with drugs. The dispute between him and his girlfriend, played by Zendaya, starts because he forgot to thank her at the screening. From there, the film delves into the psychology of the two leads. Both of them deliver amazing performances, especially Zendaya. I know it’s somewhat of a stereotype for former Disney stars to go off the deep end after their childhood careers, but there are some who break through and prove themselves to be terrific actors. Zendaya is now one of those actors.
Washington, after roles in “BlacKkKlansman” and “Tenet,” is showing to be a true acting force to look out for. His performance in this proves he truly is a master at his craft.
The themes director and writer Sam Levinson bring up are intriguing ones, but it can sometimes feel a little jarring switching from commentary on critic culture and the relationship between Malcolm and Marie.
I did sympathize with Malcolm where he has an almost six-minute rant about a critic and her missing the point of why his film was impactful. As a critic, I 100% understand his frustration toward critics who are far too often like this.
The film also goes on a little too long. Though it is just under two hours, it felt way longer than that. If maybe 20 minutes were cut, it would have been more impactful and I would have cared more for where their relationship was headed. The arguments they have, while intriguing at first, were repetitive after a while.
“Malcolm & Marie” feels confused with its themes at times, but does offer an intriguing look at couples and critic culture.