Malcolm and Marie: The Fine Line between Love and Hate

After a months-long drought in the entertainment industry, Netflix releases “Malcolm and Marie.”

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Zendaya stars as Marie in the Netflix original, “Malcolm and Marie.” Photo Courtesy/ YouTube Netflix

After a months-long production drought in the entertainment industry, Netflix released “Malcolm and Marie” on Feb. 5, the first movie produced and released during the pandemic. Heavily criticized by critics and filmed with a limited crew, “Malcolm and Marie” offers a claustrophobic view into a tumultuous relationship, one that develops in a secluded house in the woods. 

“Malcolm and Marie” follows a couple in Los Angeles who, despite loving each other deeply, cannot seem to enjoy themselves and somehow always end up in an argument. The film stars Zendaya and John David Washington, and was directed by Sam Levinson, creator of HBO’s “Euphoria.”  It depicts a long and tumultuous night after Malcolm (Washington) debuts a film and completely sidelines Marie (Zendaya), despite her partly inspiring the film.

Although slow at times, Levinson keeps the audience captivated with graphic language, beautiful cinematography and constant movement of both the camera and the characters that encourages the viewer to keep an eye on the screen. Beyond the actual plot, the characters and the dual lead performances truly make the film unique. Zendaya establishes herself as a serious actress who can take on dramatic roles like Marie, a recovering drug addict. At the same time, Washington – son of Denzel Washington – further shuts down the claims of a career driven by nepotism with his tremendous and energetic performance.

The Netflix original was heavily criticized by media outlets such as NPR and Vulture, due to its negative portrayal of movie critics as well as a postponed climax (the characters fight throughout the movie, with no real climax until the very end). However, these claims are missing the entire point of the film. Levinson inserts the viewers into an unstable and unhealthy relationship. Our job as the audience is merely to observe and be able to relate those red flags into our real life. Additionally, we see two beautifully written and complex characters — one who cannot accept good things happening to her, while the other is talented but narcissistic.

“Malcolm and Marie” is an enjoyable, yet exhausting film that lets the audience clearly see the fine line between love and hate. Although repetitive at times, the interesting characters, artistic choices (such as filming on 35mm, black and white film) and outstanding performances make this film one-of-a-kind.