Director Sam Levinson’s stunning film ‘Malcolm & Marie’ pits two of Hollywood’s most talked-about actors against each other in a story that delves deeper into complexities of a relationship. The film has only two actors- John David Washington and Zendaya, is set in a single night and is in black and white- yet it is one of the most riveting films of the season.
Filmmaker Malcolm (Washington) and his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya) are back to their sprawling home after attending a hugely successful premiere of Malcolm’s latest film. Malcolm is in the mood to celebrate and spend the night talking only about himself and his work. Marie on the other hand doesn’t share her boyfriend’s emotions.
What starts off as a conversation around the premiere and how everyone celebrated Malcolm, soon becomes a conversation about the conflicts their relationship has had since the beginning.
Marie has played the supportive partner for long and suppressed her anger, grief and doubts about the relationship for long. On that night, as Malcolm casually forgets to thank her at the premiere night, old issues come tumbling out.
Levinson’s detailed screenplay is majorly accentuated by Washington and Zendaya’s effortless portrayal of two extremely complicated human beings. Washington plays the narcissist, needy Malcolm to the hilt who doesn’t understand where he is going wrong. He is equal parts ignorant and equal parts manipulative, who tries to tap on his girlfriend’s vulnerabilities. There is not a single false note in Washington’s performance.
Zendaya, who recently created history by becoming the youngest ever actor to win an Emmy, is stunning as the self-assured, confident Marie. The actress looks stunning in every frame and makes Marie a character that is relatable, someone you end up rooting for through the course of 1 hr 45 minutes of the film. As Marie, Zendaya exudes confidence and vulnerability with absolute ease. Marie has had a troubled past but she is proud of coming out of it. Her anger for Malcolm stems out of the lack of acknowledgement she has got in her life from him. Zendaya owns every frame she is in-which is almost the entire film.
When the story spans over a single night and revolves around a couple in their home, the scope of cinematography becomes limited. But Marcell Rév’s camera speaks volumes, provides the pregnant pauses in the stunning house and Malcolm and Marie restrict themselves to separate spaces to cool off in between fights. Shot in black and white, each frame of ‘Malcom & Marie’ is visually stunning. Rév’s frames are linear, very structured and enhance the narrative to a great extent.
The film slips after the one hour mark and the conversations between the two becoming a bit repetitive. But it picks up around half an hour before the film is to end. When the story is spanning over a few hours and has only two characters talking to each other, it is a difficult watch. The movements are restricted, the conversations demand your attention but Levinson manages to keep the viewer engaged mostly. It helps to have great actors Zendaya and Washington playing out the characters on screen.
Pitched as one of the Oscar probables, ‘Malcolm & Marie’ is compelling for its frames and Zendaya and Washington’s superlative performances. Don’t miss this one.
‘Malcolm & Marie’ is streaming on Netflix.
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