Arts & Culture Editor
“Malcolm & Marie” is rooted in a story of tension and toxicity. The late hours after Malcom’s movie premier, he and his girlfriend Marie spend the whole night fighting. And that’s honestly the whole story from a plot perspective. The whole movie is a snowball effect in the making. The fighting at the beginning starts small, then the next round of fighting gets bigger, more abusive, and more manipulative until it becomes a roaring avalanche. Malcolm and Marie are two individuals who are incredibly flawed and truly bring out the worst in each other. Yet, they claim they still “love” one another.
The Netflix Original aims to be exactly that. Original. After viewing I was appreciative of the originality of the whole spectacle of the movie. I had never seen anything like this one. The movie for better or worse throws out traditional storytelling in the medium. There is no plot, just a night with these two characters, who are both played by the phenomenal John David Washington and Zendaya. They both shared this innate ability to make two emotionally manipulative degenerates into charming characters. Most notably when Malcolm and Marie share a common enemy with “the white-girl Karen, critic of The LA Times.” At this point this is really the only time the two together have fun during the whole movie.
Besides that I have some criticisms of “Malcolm & Marie.” First of all with the way the movie is done in black and white. I’m of the belief that making a movie in the 21st century in black and white doesn’t actually enhance the art, but cheapens it. Maybe the film wanted it to be in black and white to show that the fighting going on between Malcom and Marie wasn’t all “black and white.” My bias here is that black and white films should stay back in their time. Color is great, please use color.
Watching “Malcolm & Marie” is the only movie I have ever watched, where I would describe it as mentally taxing. The movie runs for just over 100 minutes and I was uncomfortable for about 90 of those 100 minutes. The whole time the movie is playing a game of who can be the most emotionally abusive person between the two. It’s a game of tag. Back and forth they bring up each other’s trauma, put each other down, and manipulate each other. The entire time I was rooting for one of them to just pack up their things and leave because that would have been the happy ending for both of them.
Even though the talent in the film is brilliant, “Malcolm & Marie” encapsulates toxic behavior and emotional abuse. If you have ever been a bystander to a couple fighting each other; you know that feeling of being incredibly uncomfortable and anxious. That is what it feels like to watch this movie. At some points I would empathize with Malcolm, then at some points of the film I’d empathize with Marie and finally, empathize with neither.
“Malcolm & Marie” is a 105 minute ride on an anxiety filled roller-coaster. The film tries to show the complexities of an unhealthy relationship that is teetering on the edge of insanity between the two. If you want to watch a movie that shows no characters to root for, or a positive resolution that is desperately needed between the two titular characters, then “Malcolm & Marie” is not for you. “Malcolm & Marie” is saved by the performances of Zendaya and John David Washington, otherwise I felt this movie was a car crash (or multiple crashes) that I could not turn away from.
“Malcolm & Marie” is a 6/10