I am not a film critic. A few years of drama at secondary school does not make one a sought-after film critic. And to be quite honest, my writing is more a visual representation of my internal voice. Nevertheless, I am continuing. Here is my review of Malcom and Marie.
The entire film in every aspect is stripped. The whole film is shot in monochrome and set in a secluded house with Scandinavian interiors. Zendaya (who plays Marie) strips from an evening gown to nude and then a singlet and knickers. John (who plays Malcom) eventually strips down to a singlet at the very end. Stripping is a constant theme literally and metaphorically as the film is practically two people tearing into one another with no mercy. One-location films typically go heavy on the depth of their characters, story and emotion but Malcom and Marie does not. The film is a very simple cycle consisting of fighting and making up. Is it intentional? Or does it speak to the impromptus nature of the writers?
When I first tried to bake red velvet cake, I got all the ingredients and timings right, but I didn’t wait long enough for my cake to cool down. Alas, when I came to construct my cake, the layers (which were merely cracked puzzle peices at this point) barely joined well, leaving me with essentially a pile of red velvet. I plastered it in cream cheese frosting, it looked a little better and tasted divine, but it was still that same mess when I cut into it. There are many parallels between my cake experience and John Washington’s portrayal of Malcom. Malcom wasn’t allowed to settle, which unfortunately leaves us with a 2D character – at some points I can see it’s an intentional way to highlight his immensely irritating personality but for the most part it removes depth from his character. In parts of the film it would appear to build, like my cream cheese frosting, then a line would cut into his character to reveal the odd pieces. The constant shouting, pouting puzzled faces combined with his inability to show the softer side of Malcom left me feeling underwhelmed. I think it is very easy to play the ‘angry black man’ when the audience’s perception of you is already inclined to think that way. This is probably why I wanted more from Washington, I wanted more anger without shouting so that I could question how sinister his character could be. I wanted tears that felt believable. I wanted more.
Marie is a walking agave plant. We can see her vulnerability so clearly, it’s explained and spat out throughout the film. However, Marie has a sharp side and we see that reach its pinnacle when she dismantles Malcom. Its not until that point that we see her for the Bad B that she is. It is clear who is in command in the relationship. It’s easy to think otherwise since Malcom does most of the talking(shouting), but Marie has such a hold over him that has nothing to do with her previous drug addiction. Marie is cut throat at a monotone level, she’s scarily silently tearful and just as toxic as Malcom. Yet somehow, her character is still warm and likeable.
I’m happy the title wasn’t called ‘BLACK’ or something cringey like ‘The two of us’ because ‘MALCOM & MARIE’ literally lives up to it’s name. It is Malcom and it is Marie. There is little room made for alternative interpretation in the title and maybe that’s on purpose and sets the tone for the film to be plain and simple. Or maybe it’s not? Perhaps the title makes up for the lack of depth the film has. Perhaps it’s all intentional.
These are my thoughts.
Not a critic.