The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the entire film industry, and it hasn't been to until now that big blockbusters have begun to film again, with most having to go outside of the United States to shoot (Marvel Studios feel like they have taken over most of Australia). Last June, 'Malcom & Marie' became the first film to be written, financed, produced and filmed during the pandemic. Undergoing a number of social-distancing protocols, including not having more than 12 people on set at a time and even Zendaya ('Spider-Man: Far From Home', 'The Greatest Showman') and John David Washington ('BlacKkKlansman', 'Tenet') - the only two actors in the film - having to dress themselves and do their own makeup. It's a look at how films can still be made during this time.
On the night of his big premiere, Malcolm and Marie arrive home, awaiting reviews to come in for Malcolm's directing and writing skills on his new film. In the meantime, tension arise between the two from both the story of Malcolm's film as well as issues in their relationship.
I know this isn't a revelatory statement, but Zendaya is truly a force to be reckoned with. Everything she does elevates her to a whole new level. Here, yet again, she is truly breathtaking and outstanding. The film's title may be both characters' names, but this is her film. It's so thrilling to see her constantly rase the bar and do it flawlessly. John David Washington who, after bringing us one of the blandest performances of 2020 in one of the year's most forgettable films 'Tenet', reclaims his charisma here, once again electric on screen. Both feel like a real bitter couple, madly in love one second and at each other's throats the next.
The film not only re-teams Zendaya with 'Euphoria' creator Sam Levinson, who is writing and directing here, but also reunites the show's cinematographer Marcell Rèv and composer Labrinth, all proving their talents translate into a feature-length film.
After reading some reviews after watching the film, a lot of critics found the film so-so, saying that the performances were phenomenal but the screenplay was mediocre - which is interesting to note, since a few scenes in the film directly discuss the power critics have and the way they can shape the way people view a feature and how it can oppose what was originally intended. The film that Malcolm makes is about a woman's struggle with drug addiction, and the critics spin this into a African-American director projecting his message on how African-Americans are oppressed by the medical system in the United States, something that hadn't even crossed his mind in the filmmaking process. It raises the question of who decides whether a film is political: the creative team, or is it the audience and reviewers? I found it interesting that a film that somewhat calls out some of the ways critics can multiplate an audience isn't being overly well received.
I know this isn't a revelatory statement, but Zendaya is truly a force to be reckoned with. Everything she does elevates her to a whole new level. Here, yet again, she is truly breathtaking and outstanding. The film's title may be both characters' names, but this is her film.
The film has drawn some comparison to 'Marriage Story', and while that's fair, 'Malcolm & Marie' is a very different film with a different approach and feel. We follow the couple over one night, with the entire film shot in black and white; that really adds to the experience and draws you in. Both films do have tough conversations about relationships and whether they can be rebuilt, but they go about it in different ways and talk about it very differently.
While the screenplay might not be the most nuanced, it doesn't have to be - it's a showcase of talent in front of and behind the camera. It's a beautiful film; each frame could serve as a still to whatever campaign Zendaya is currently a part of while proving her place as one of the best young talents of the 21st century. Find the biggest screen in your house and be in awe of all the beauty 'Malcolm & Marie' has to offer.