Malcolm & Marie movie poster
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Malcolm & Marie
Malcolm & Marie movie poster

Malcolm & Marie Movie Review

There’s a scene in Malcolm & Marie, the new drama from writer/director Sam Levinson, where John David Washington delivers a brutal verbal takedown of his on-screen girlfriend, played by Zendaya, as she soaks in a bathtub, taking the abuse. She barely speaks, and yet you sit there, wide eyed, stunned at the mastercraft you’re watching.

Zendaya is absolutely phenomenal as Marie as she unleashes a searing, emotional powerhouse of a performance. Levinson, the creator of her hit show Euphoria, recruited Zendaya, Washington, and a skeleton crew to make this black-and-white, two-character play of a movie during the pandemic, and it’s quite the acting showcase. While Zendaya arguably steals the show, Washington is right there alongside her matching her step for step.

Washington, who broke out in Spike Lee’s BlackKklansman but struggled mightily in Christopher Nolan’s love-it-or-hate-it Tenet, proves that, like his father, he’s best when he’s allowed to explode. Washington chews up scenery as he spews hatred left and right, but he’s also the lifeblood of the film, the energy and the undercurrent.

Even still, the way Zendaya is able to convey raw, simmering emotions, often through glaring eyes or quivering chin, is utterly powerful. Marie can be just as fierce and ruthless as Malcolm, but she is the emotional core.

As for Levinson, he’s made a beautiful little drama that looks amazing and does much with a little. He’s been slammed for using the movie as a showcase to rip apart film critics--which he channels through Malcolm, a filmmaker--and while he does admittedly dwell too long on his anti-critic diatribes, critics who got butthurt by it all took him and this movie way too seriously.

Because, regardless of the little details, Malcolm & Marie is a great piece of tight filmmaking, full of sharp dialogue and piercing acting. 

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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