SPOILER ALERT! I will spoil this entire movie so read at your own risk.
Let me just start by saying this…
I don’t fight like this. I do not fight like this. I do not look for the most hurtful thing I can say to win an argument. I don’t try to put in the most devastating blow to crush an other human being. Mind you, conversations with my mom could have gone that way, but I add restraints to my vitriol. But that’s for another discussion.
But this movie as much as it was in this one house, with only these two people and nothing physical took place, this entire movie was a war. It was a war of words and it lasted for 1 hour and 45 minutes. And as a member of the audience, I was exhausted.
The need to one up the other without worrying about the damaging effect your words could have on your significant other was one thing, but they fought so dirty.
At any point and time during those exchanges, I would have ended that relationship. I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, it would be done. I would end this relationship and call it a day. I don’t need to win an argument and the reason why is because, for me, an argument is not about win or lose. We have a difference of opinion and it’s an opportunity for me to learn something or teach something. I expect the same to be with the person I’m disagreeing with. If it’s not the case, then, there’s no need to go on. It becomes EXHAUSTING!
And dammit, Malcolm and Marie were too goddamn exhausting!
Before I get into the movie, let me share about something that I found has bugged me. The movie had a 2.5 million dollar budget. Sam Levinson, the film director, stated in an interview with Esquire UK that there was no script supervisor, no first AD, no real props department, Z (I'm assuming Zendaya) was doing her own hair and make-up and there was no schedule. [We] were able to spend days really diving into the material and breaking down every scene.
I have shot a movie last summer doing just that, except I had wardrobe and a makeup artist. And I had 3 locations to shoot from. He had that one location. I spent no more than 5000 in total.
I really was surprised at what someone could create with 2.5 million while not needing much to make the movie. It reminded me of 12 Angry Men. Except they shot that movie in just one room. But that's me looking at the resources and the finished product in the end. It bugged me. But let's get back to the subject at and that's the the toxic roller coaster that is Malcolm & Marie.
The movie was written and directed by Sam Levinson who also worked on the HBO series Euphoria which also stars Zendaya.
The entire movie is in Black & White and starts with the credits which was unusual for me, but I was not mad at it.
The couple of Malcolm and Marie return home from Malcolm’s movie premiere.
Malcolm is excited from the premiere, but Marie seems bothered. She seemed bothered from the moment she came in through the door. And after an attempt at trying to get frisky with Marie, Malcolm notices that she’s bothered and starts to probe her and keeps bothering her, asking for her to talk to him. And she says the one thing that could have changed the movie if Malcolm had agreed to go along with it, “I promise you, it’s not a good idea. Let’s just talk tomorrow.”
Nope! Malcolm is not accepting that. He can’t go to sleep knowing that she’s upset. So the source of the problem is revealed. Malcolm did not add Marie to his acceptance speech.
Then the first fight starts with Marie claiming that the movie Malcolm made is about her life. Malcolm denies while Marie challenges him in saying that if she was not part of his life, the movie would not be made. Apologies are made, and as they begin to kiss, In A Sentimental Mood by Duke Ellington & John Coltrane begins to play. The beauty and softness of this song drives this particular scene as they embrace. Of course, you can add the light heartedness that comes along with the banter they share at which time, Malcolm feels the need to let Marie know that she would have made a wonderful actress. . Probably one of my favorite scenes in the movie.
And then, as Marie goes for her cigarette, Malcolm plays I Forgot To Be Your Lover by William Bell. Marie disappears and Malcolm goes on a scavenger hunt looking for her. Once he finds her, we enter the next fight. Marie proceeds to tell Malcolm he is the most needy person he ever dated, but the least jealous. And from there, Malcolm brings in the big guns, referencing her past as an addict and her past suicide attempt. Marie retaliates speaking on the fact that he stuck by her because she was inspiration to him going back to the point that the movie was about her. And she lets him know that bringing up past suicide attempt was cruel.
And right there, to be honest, I was angry. Bringing up your partner’s past in an argument and using it as ammunition is disgusting. It hurts, but it happened.
The fight pauses as Marie gets in a bath and Malcolm goes for a walk. You would think he needed to cool down, but no. Malcolm came back with more for Marie’s ass.
He basically broke down his movie and shared what every part and every speech from the main character was based on. Shared all past ex-girlfriends who had something to do with inspiration for that movie. After all that, he makes sure to let her know that she inspired the end of his movie. After which, he leaves to get a drink and get an actual breather. Leaving Marie in the tub.
There’s no fighting. That second fight ended and then Malcolm enters a 7 minutes monologue about a review he received from the LA Times. After which he and Marie discuss it and then go back to embracing and kissing and you would think that it would they would finally enjoy their evening. Malcolm stops saying he needs to pee, begging Marie to not move.
And as soon as he’s done, she asks if she can ask him a question he could answer without making her feel like shit.
Right there, before he could answer, I could tell that he was not capable of doing that. He has a venomous streak about him where he feels the need to put her down whenever there’s a slight inkling that someone would attack his character.
And he did just that. She asked him, while crying, why he didn’t cast her and to be honest, that sounded to me like she was being vulnerable. Malcolm asked her to audition, but she didn’t want the role nor did she try. Said that she was self-sabotaging. They get in another intense war of words where she speaks of authenticity being key and he shuts it down by stating that it’s not needed to make a good film.
This fight pauses for maybe a minute until Marie comes at him with a knife in hand and let me say that that was the scariest part of the movie for me. How she played with the knife, moving it around, asking him for pills. And his nervousness showed as he kept quiet the entire exchange until, she dropped the knife to the ground and just before flipping him off, she said, “And that Malcolm is what authenticity buys you.”
To which he replied, “Why didn’t you do that at the audition?”
Which brings us to the last conversation in the movie where Marie talks about what this has been all about and that was Malcolm forgetting to thank her in his speech earlier that night.
I loved that about this movie. The ability to bring us on this roller coaster, but then bringing us back to where it all started and that was that he forgot to thank Marie.
Now, mind you, my views on the movie might not seem favorable, but in all reality, this movie was great with regards to the writing because it was literally an action movie without action. A war of words being hurled by 2 people who claim to love each other. And maybe they do, but the way they went about dealing with their problem was so problematic. Malcolm feeling the need to destroy or better yet, snap like a twig the woman he loved because he wanted to win an argument made me wonder if he didn’t have the mental problem he accused her of having throughout the movie. And Marie is not innocent. It takes 2 people to argue and she was a part of it as well, but Malcolm’s vitriol is so impactful that it makes you almost disregard her involvement.
Zendaya is great at playing Marie. I believed her throughout the entire film, except when sharing about her drug addiction until the knife scene. That part… That took my breath away.
John David Washington is definitely following in his father’s footsteps. Forget that at times, in the movie, if you close your eyes, you might think you’re hearing Mr. Denzel Washington himself, but the talent definitely transferred into John David. From his work on Ballers, Black Klansman and Tenet (which I have yet to watch), this man is adding on to the legacy of his name.
The movie was written perfectly, but it was exhausting! I felt drained and that might be because of my personal experience where I refuse to fight with people that way, but the way it affected me… Congratulation Mr. Sam Levinson. You did a good job with this one! It was just hard to watch for me.