Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Malcolm and Marie - Movie Review

The Movie: Malcolm and Marie

The Director: Sam Levinson

The Cast: Zendaya and John David Washington

The Story: A director and his girlfriend's relationship is tested after they return home from his movie premiere and await critics' responses.

The Review:
A little background on why this movie exists. Sam Levinson was about to start production on season two of his Euphoria TV show which stars Zendaya right when covid became a thing and everything started to shut down. Without being able to make a TV show, he decided to write a movie featuring two characters that he could then film in a safe environment while adapting to all the restrictions and regulations. Thus Malcolm and Marie was born with Zendaya of course on board and then John David Washington brought in to fill out the other role.

Levinson is known for his ability to write strong stories and even stronger dialog and, having just recently binged the first season of Euphoria, the two special episodes, and also re-watched Assassination Nation, I felt like I was ready to take on what looked like a very dramatic and dialog heavy feature. I'm honestly not sure if I would have appreciated this film as much if I hadn't incidentally done all of that prep work and was so ready to continue to take in Levinson's vibe as a storyteller. The first movie I think of as a comparison is Before Midnight as both are such up and down rollercoasters of extreme emotional highs and lows with all of it coming from the performances and interactions between the two characters.

The performances. Both Zendaya and Washington absolutely knock it out of the park and this is the best work each of them has turned in to date. Some people have complained that Washington is lacking in emotiveness and personality, me not being one of them, and everything he does in this movie, every scene, every word, and every moment just kills all of that. There is one particular scene in the middle of the movie where he is going on an absolute tirade and he gives it everything he has and all in the best way possible. It's pretty amazing stuff and he doesn't let up at any point in the entire movie. I have to say this is one of the best acting performances I have watched in some time.

If there was a performance that could be better, it is the one right next to him in the movie by Zendaya. I first discovered her, like a lot of people did, as she was cast in the current run of Spider-Man movies and she has been really fun in that role to this point. I never saw her earlier Disney days and didn't really know much about her before that. My next experience watching this young woman is in the aforementioned Euphoria TV and my goodness did she earn every bit of praise and every award that was thrown her way. If you haven't watched the show, it's worth your time. I rarely watch TV shows because I'm always watching movies and yet it took me a day and a half to binge this one from start to finish.

I don't know how many times I've needed two paragraphs to talk about a single performance but this one absolutely deserves it. Zendaya is an absolute warrior in this movie. I don't mean warrior like her character goes and slays dragons or whatever, I mean it like she owns this role and just puts in work like she's trying to own everything. Like she's saying here I am, we're about to run this so step back and watch it happen. I truly feel like she is an actress we will all be talking about, praising, and honoring for many years to come and it all starts right here. In a year where women really took control of cinema both in front of and behind the camera, Zendaya is the one.

Okay, I have a complaint and it's about movies in general and not just about this one but it is about this one. There is way too much smoking in movies! Way more people in movies smoke than people in real life. I don't know if the tobacco industry is buying air time or if filmmakers just think it looks cool but it really needs to stop. Tell me it's who the character is all you want, I'm not buying it. It's too much and I was disappointed to see both characters in this movie, 100% of the characters in this movie, are smokers or smokers who quit or are trying to quit yet they till smoke. Okay, that's all, thank you for letting me get that out.

You know how I was talking about how this movie is a roller coaster of drama and emotion, well there is a down side to that as well. The peaks are very high and the valleys are very low, emotionally speaking, I mean most of this movie is one big argument. The issue I have with this is that at times it feels like it really drags on and some of it is even redundant and a bit much. The good news is the material is so good and the performances are so amazing that any missteps are fully excused because the end result is just so good. The more I think about it, the more I like although I'm not sure when or if I will want to watch it again of that makes sense.

The Verdict:
Malcolm and Marie is a showcase of incredible acting performances from Zendaya and John David Washington. Behind the performances is a full blown emotional temper tantrum from Sam Levinson as he calls out both movie critics and filmmakers for how they react and interact with each other's work.

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