Malcolm and Marie: focuses more on the presentation than representation


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All the flashy words and wandering structure of Malcolm and Marie (2020) make it hard to engage and enjoy. The overwritten dialogues makes it feel more of an acting exercise, than a movie.

The movie is set during one night. Malcolm (John David Washington) is an uprising filmmaker. His directorial film just premiered. He and his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya) return home from the movie premiere; while Malcolm is still in the mood for celebration, Marie is exhausted. Soon the late-night turns into a battleground; they argue about their relationship, film, and their lives.

The other night, I watched Woody Allen’s “Manhattan.” The dialogues flow naturally, perfectly captures the characters, and the screenplay beautifully engages with its hopeless characters (also creepy). What I got from Malcolm and Marie is quite the opposite. I loved several scenes, mostly where they talk about movies, film criticism, cultural references, artists’ views, but it doesn’t fit the moment. In fact, there is no certain direction to the screenplay. It just wanders in the dark.

The writer forces his characters to argue over and over, and feels like the first twenty minutes are repeating like a vicious cycle, just to show off the writing and vocabulary skills. It felt like several pieces were forcefully stitched together. Take “The Trail of Chicago 7 (2020)” example scratch that take “Steve Jobs (2015)”, it’s just a group of arguments before Steve Jobs trying to launch his products. Still, the movie Is engaging; it beautifully portraits the characters and the story in Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay. This is lacking in Malcolm and Marie.

Easily the performance is the best part of the movie but (yes, there is a but again) with the all-flashy words and dialogue, it doesn’t feel emotional as it should be. Both great actors, Zendaya, who won Emmy this year for “Euphoria Tv series, and David Washington, a brilliant director’s actor, did a decent job with the given material. What held them back was the screenplay with the unnatural words and overwritten dialogues; it felt more stagey, at times, I thought Zendaya was rapping. It didn’t feel like the dialogues that normal people say; maybe on paper, the movie seemed like arguments in “Marriage Story (2019)”, in the movie, it didn’t. However, both actors gave an excellent performance for me, David Washington stood out the most. He is hilarious in the mac and cheese scene, and the long monologues about movies are splendid.

I love black and white movies, but I don’t see the point why Malcolm and Marie (2020) was filmed in monochrome other than pretentious like an artistic movie, trying to look cool when it served no purpose. Anyway, there were some stunning scenes. (don’t expect like “Mank” and “The Lighthouse,” though)

Conclusion: Like their relationship, Malcolm and Marie (2020) have flaws and pleasurable moments. It focuses more on the presentation than representation, makes it more pretentious than natural and engaging if that makes sense to you. Overall, it’s an okayish movie. My rating is 6/10.

Give it a try on Netflix you might like more or view the films from my absolute must-watch top 25 movies from 2020.

Director: Sam Levinson
Cast: John David Washington, Zendaya
Genre: Drama, Romance


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