Not A Love Story, A Story Of Love | Malcolm & Marie

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By Yousif A. Salame

 

At a first glance of Malcolm & Marie (2021), it seems like a bunch of fights and screams between a couple in a disturbed relationship. However, when you dive into the film, you’ll find that it delves into the true nature of relationships and the small things that make us argue, fight, care for, and love each other.

“A gorgeous Hollywood couple has an extended, exhausting argument in this claustrophobic example of pandemic filmmaking from Netflix.” ~ Jeannette Catsoulis, The NYTimes

Based in a modern setting that could clearly be during any given time in the past decade, with one location and 2 characters, the film is made in black & white, an artistic choice I didn’t particularly understand the reason behind other than being a statement about black race vs white race.

The film features a director, Malcolm, played by John David Washington and his girlfriend Marie, played by Zendaya, coming back home from the premiere of Malcolm’s movie. At that point in the film, Malcolm is still in an ecstatic and celebratory mood, but then all of a sudden the mood turns into a fight triggered by Marie when she complains about the fact that he forgot to thank her in his speech before the movie screening. 

 

A stylized stab at pandemic filmmaking, “Malcolm & Marie,” is at once mildly admirable and deeply unlikable. Beneath the film’s Old-Hollywood gleam and self-conscious sniping, serious questions are raised, only to lie fallow. What obligation, if any, does an artist have to their muse? And how do we separate an artist’s work from their ethnicity?

 

“I promise you, nothing productive is going to be said tonight,” Marie says near the beginning of the movie. Sadly, she’s telling the truth.

 

Malcolm’s peacocking, however, irritates Marie, who heads for the bathroom in a sulk. A former drug addict whose grueling experiences inspired Malcolm’s film, Marie is about to unload a wealth of resentment on her unsuspecting partner. First, though, she’ll have to listen to him, his joy evaporated, complaining about the critics who define him by his skin tone – a justifiable loathing of such categorization that doesn’t prevent him, later in the film, from singling out one female Los Angeles Times critic for a special scorn.

 

What initially looks like a small argument that gets resolved fast, actually turns soon after into a rollercoaster of emotions and a series of arguments triggered by both sides… and after each argument is settled, another issue arises, revealing something new about the characters, their past, their relationship history, and how far they are both willing to go into a fight simply because they care that much about each other.

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