Friday, February 5, 2021

Movie with Abe: Malcolm and Marie

Malcolm and Marie
Directed by Sam Levinson
Released February 5, 2021 (Netflix)

The fights that couples have are very often cyclical, and while they may be sparked by something different each time, it’s usually a variation of the same few key issues in a relationship. It’s healthy to disagree and to confront those conflicts on a regular basis rather than to let minimal problems fester and turn into unavoidable and insurmountable obstacles to coexistence. It’s not easy to control what sparks an argument, and though honesty is typically a pathway to good communication, the nature of that truth may be difficult to digest and accept.

Malcolm (John David Washington) and Marie (Zendaya) return home after the premiere of Malcolm’s latest movie. As Marie makes him macaroni and cheese for dinner, the two get into a major discussion of Malcolm’s career, which hits on a number of topics, including Marie’s work as an actress and what she sees as the appropriation of her life story into the plot of his movie. Against the backdrop of a luxurious space that they have rented, Malcolm and Marie delve into their true feelings for their work, society, and one another.

This is a masterful two-hander that features only these actors speaking with each other for the entirety of the film’s runtime. Writer-director Sam Levinson, best known for creating the American TV series “Euphoria,” reteams with his star Zendaya to offer an incredible meditation on life and love. Black-and-white cinematography by Marcell Rév highlights the starkness and emptiness of where they are, with their sleek costumes indicating a layer of protection and deceit that they both wear to hide part of their true selves from each other. Levinson’s script is rich and poignant, spanning a range of emotions and a variety of tones that speak to who these people are and what they see in the world.

What Washington and Zendaya are doing here is truly extraordinary. Washington, who has earned buzz for his performances in “BlacKkKlansman” and “Tenet,” conveys a mesmerizing arrogance to Malcolm’s own self-perception that reveals his true nature when he launches into each of his grandstanding speeches. Zendaya, already a breakout on “Euphoria,” is equally astonishing, channeling passion and identity into someone who has been forced to be defined by other people for most of her lives. Both deserve an array of accolades for their performances, and Levinson’s excellent script and tight direction are equally commendable. This is a tremendous example of how to say so much without the need for a large ensemble or expensive visual effects – it’s the raw human drama that proves truly worthwhile.


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