Paul Mendoza

A two hour two hander that’s reminiscent of Contempt (1963), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and Cassavetes but not as successful.

Written and directed by Sam Levinson (Euphoria) and filmed during Covid with a very small crew, Malcolm and Marie was shot over two weeks at a private residence in Carmel, California . It’s two characters are played by two talented and fast rising stars John David Washington (Tenet) and Zendaya (Euphoria). The film takes place in real time as a couple confront each other about everything that is going wrong in their relationship.

Malcolm (Washington) is a young black filmmaker and Marie (Zendaya) is his much younger, gorgeous muse. The film starts with them coming back from the successful premiere of Malcolm’s new feature film. He is floating on air. He puts on some music and sings and dances around the house as Marie quietly starts cooking up some Kraft Mac and Cheese for him. He finally notices her quietness and asks what is bothering her. And they are off to the races! What follows is almost two hours of two people getting everything off their chest, fighting then making up, almost making love before they start fighting again. Painful things are said, startling revelations are flung and tears flow.

Marie is upset that Malcolm did not thank her in his speech after the screening. Malcolm is dismissive of Marie, charging that she is jealous and antisocial and not knowledgeable enough of film to feel comfortable with his friends. Marie feels she has been taken for granted and charges that he is too insecure in his work to give her any credit for her support and inspiration. They face their demons and each other and don’t always like what they see but they continue to try and work things out. It ends on an ambiguous note which is good. It would’t have been realistic to think everything would be resolved after one night of should searching.

The performances are very good. They look terrific and it’s very believable to see them as a couple. It’s very intense but the actors are so good you get into their relationship and it doesn’t feel forced. I’m sure everyone will be able to relate to them in some way. We’ve all had similar fights with our partner and know that these type of fights can last for hours. It feels more like a play, which is why I mentioned Virginia Woolf. I would have liked a little more humor thrown in from time to time to break up the tension but I still found it a very powerful experience.

This may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is a very exciting piece of work with engaging actors and lovely black and white photography. Open a bottle of wine and enjoy the fireworks. Watch it with your significant other and I’m sure you’ll have a rollicking good conversation afterwards.