If you had guessed that a grainy black and white film with a scene involving macaroni and cheese would eventually sell for $30 million during the middle of a pandemic, please reach out to me to collect your prize. Conceived and shot during the middle of the pandemic, Malcom & Marie is another drama you can file under “a story that entirely takes place in one setting with no more than two actors that appear on screen.” Approved by multiple organizations that greenlight the shooting of films, the production was scaled back in order to follow COVID-19 protocols. While the production itself may be more fascinating than the film itself when it’s all said and done, Malcolm & Marie is still a drama worth sitting through. Sure, it may not be the awards contender Netflix was hoping it would be, but it’s still a fine film with two great performances from two actors who are currently on hot trails in Hollywood.
Malcolm & Marie takes place entirely at the home of the two titular characters, who are coming back home after the movie premiere of Malcolm’s (John David Washington) movie. What transpires over the movie’s 106-minute runtime is conversation after conversation, ranging from the highs and lows of the movie premiere, the reaction to Malcolm’s movie, and, most importantly, the relationship of Malcolm and Marie (Zendaya). While the dialogue is heavy, it certainly keeps you wondering who says what next. As the roller coaster of emotions spew out, you may at times feel uncomfortable with what you’re hearing from both sides. But director Sam Levinson is not trying to make you pick a side; he’s showing you what everybody else in the world is: anything but perfect.
What keeps you invested in Malcolm & Marie from start to finish (though it does run about 15 minutes too long) is John David Washington and Zendaya. Are they career-best performances? Debatable given their previous great work in other movies or TV shows. But nonetheless, they both give great performances that make every syllable of dialogue they utter feels almost like a firecracker spark that could go any way given the nature of their characters and pasts. The more you learn about Malcolm and Marie the more unsure you are about what to think of their characters. And what Levinson ultimately gets from both actors in these imperfect characters reveals what some people watching this movie can relate to (but to various extents).
Some may tune out Malcolm & Marie just minutes into the film, and honestly I won’t fault them for doing that. Again, this film will make you feel uncomfortable at times. It’s anything but boring, but it very well could get under your skin. However, thanks to great performances from Washington and Zendaya, some who venture into this beautifully-shot black and white film may emerge with something to relate to. Will you have questions by the time the credits roll? Yes. Will you be left without resolution? Probably. And will you be left craving macaroni and cheese like I was? That’s for you to decide.