The loving hatred of ‘Malcolm and Marie’

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The romance between Malcolm and Marie is anything but a sappy love story.

Emma Johnson, Staff Writer

2020 was a year full of uncertainties. The media fed the world, giving us entertainment to distract us from the looming pandemic and from the former activities we used to partake in. However, in the midst of the regular-life hiatus, “Euphoria” director Sam Levinson teamed up with Zendaya and John David Washington to create the film, “Malcolm and Marie.”

Premiering on Netflix on Feb. 5, 2020, this raw gem was the first film written, shot and produced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The entirety of the cast and crew made sure to get tested and complied with CDC guidelines. Shot entirely in black and white with a jazz-based score, this movie veers off course from modern cinema, taking an approach to the silent film era of the 1940s and ’50s. On the contrary, this movie is anything but silent. 

Coming home from Malcolm’s movie premiere, the couple starts in rough waters, boiling anger underneath the surface. As Marie (played by Zendaya) fixes macaroni and cheese for Malcolm, (played by John David Washington) an off-putting mood fills the room until it suffocates the viewer. After Malcolm pesters Marie to try and convince her to open up, she snaps; he forgot to thank her at the premiere, part of which was based on her life story. Tensions escalate higher and higher until finally, as if out of thin air, it dissipates. Even though they just returned home, the night is far from over. 

Over the course of two hours, the delighted highs fluctuate with the tragic lows. Nothing remains perfect. The arguments between Malcolm and Marie stay high, even when they both have supposedly calmed down. There is always some unrest that pricks the other like an inescapable itch. If the viewer does not pay attention closely to what is happening, they will miss details that are crucial to how the relationship came to be and how they intertwine in each other’s lives. 

Unlike most films, there is little dialogue between the characters. They banter back and forth throughout heated, embellished monologues that last several minutes. Sheer anger and coarse language add to the biting intensity. They attack each other, calling out each other’s flaws, yet at the same time, bring awareness to their shortcomings. When the other is not talking, actions speak louder than words. Their facial expressions and body language radiate on levels that words cannot comprehend. The chemistry between Washington and Zendaya is palpable. One of the best aspects of the film is that there is no character that one can solidly root for. Their flaws are exposed through their rants and just when you start to appreciate them, the perspective shifts and you start to root for the other. 

Since the movie is heavily based on dialogue like “The Breakfast Club,” the topics that are brought forth in this movie add a deeper level of appreciation. One of the most prominent discussions is Malcolm’s perspective on being a black man in the film industry. Throughout the night, he anxiously awaits to hear his first review from an LA Times critic. When it is posted, he is far from thrilled. He goes on to discuss how some black filmmakers want to create films, not for the sake of bringing up race, a common issue in today’s society. He questions Hollywood’s morals with directors who fall into tropes and how critics overlook techniques just to over-politicize films to make a quick buck. Relevant situations are peppered throughout the movie, making it into a larger-than-life picture. 

“Malcolm and Marie” takes a classic, dramatic romance and puts a fresh twist on it. Zendaya’s career leaps in bounds, shedding her Disney darling skin and embracing her talent to its fullest. The film is an allusion to one of Marie’s lines, “You take tragedy and turn it into something beautiful.” While not the love story one would expect to watch, “Malcolm and Marie” unveils a raw love story; all the gristly reality of it.