The realistic romance of the highly anticipated ‘Malcolm & Marie’

Netflix’s original film Malcolm & Marie breaks the stereotypical romance-drama barrier. Netflix/courtesy

Oped by a very single sophomore in college

Netflix’s “Malcolm & Marie” got my blood pumping the moment the first teaser dropped last summer, and writer-director Sam Levinson delivers with an astonishing composition expertly executed. Arriving days before Valentine’s Day, this isn’t something that makes you want to grab a bottle of Rosé and call your ex. 

Netflix’s latest romance-drama release was filmed during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic from June 17 to July 2. Zendaya and co-star John David Washington making it one of the highest anticipated movies of this year. Netflix bought it for a low cost of $30 million- compared to “Project Power,” which was purchased for $85 million. However, is it worth all the hype? 

Zendaya’s latest work on HBO’s “Euphoria” quickly piqued the interest of initial fans and viewers in preparation for “Malcolm & Marie.” All hype aside, it might have been easier to watch if performed on a live stage or with extended monologues and without the rush of production and a pandemic unfolding worldwide. These complications seem to make it harder to add more depth to two characters on a screen.

Malcolm, a director, and his girlfriend Marie return from the premiere of the film loosely based on Marie and her past drug abuse. Malcolm is clearly in love with himself and on an egotistical high from the premier. 

Dancing around their home while waiting for reviews to roll in. Speaking in a demeaning tone and walking throughout their kitchen, going as far as saying things like, “I’m not an elitist. I’m a filmmaker.” Marie not as giddy as her partner about the circumstances of the premiere, and this is where she begins to unravel 

She begins to get frustrated, angry and pissed off that Malcolm has yet to give her credit for his work. Marie is seen pacing and acting like a recluse, then finally breaking the following morning and screaming “I hate you” before storming off back into their Malibu home. Still, Malcolm refused to give her credit. Go figure, right? 

Watching Malcolm and Marie’s relationship go in circles, which in turn is something that most college students can relate to, the scenes and the arguments are repetitive. Perhaps Levinson did this on purpose to show the never-ending loop of an immensely toxic relationship. 

It would seem very fitting if they were done differently. Levinson doesn’t quite hit the note on this one. These fights do not come across as authentic. Instead, they are simply very well-written monologues with great actors that don’t miss a beat. 

Even though these arguments seem like simple monologues, nonetheless, still very entertaining to watch, Zendaya and Washington make it hard to pull your eyes away from the screen for more reasons than one.

Their characters engage in these emotional and tear-jerking moments throughout the film. There is a moment for appreciation for what they are doing and how they are doing it. 

Malcolm (Washington) breaks out into emotional terrors in this film. Something that he has not done in his previous work. One of his first most significant projects in “Tenet” was released in 2020, where Washington is a badass time-warping government agent. It is telling that this can complete his portfolio for the future. 

Still, this is overall Zendaya’s film. She proves that by adding profound depth and astonishing talent into everything she does, she portrays her skill through deep monologue readings throughout the film. I began to feel myself get lost in the story rather than examining it for an opinion. 

Adding to the uncanny premise of what romantic movies have always portrayed continued to allow Malcolm to be unchanged throughout the film — genuinely terrible. Compared to your average Netflix romance movie, nine times out of 10, the male lead begins with a dark, broody aura but changes to the heroine within the plot. 

Not in this one, which is a refreshing change to the genre because it gives a raw edge to it, allowing the viewer to appreciate the realness of the story, not romanticize a toxic male lead. 

This film is not an average romance. It is somewhat extraordinarily different, something that nobody has done in a long time, if ever. It was shot in a short amount of time during the pandemic, with a crew of only 14 people and solely captivated by a 35mm black-and-white camera. It is denoting the ties of intertwining old Hollywood cinema with what we have today, great editing.

For the average viewer, it probably will not leave you wanting to cuddle up with your significant other, but it may urge you to spend your life savings on a 35mm.