It is no stretch of the truth to say that nobody in the film industry really saw streaming as a ‘serious film going experience’ until Netflix delivered The Irishman. Suddenly streaming wasn’t just a way to watch B-Grade horror and fantasy films that most cinemas wouldn’t screen, it now had esteemed award-winning directors making what many would describe as Oscar-bait films.
Since then Netflix has continued to deliver films that are worthy of Oscars – there was of course the brilliant A Marriage Story and then the streaming platform showed its hand for this year’s Oscars with the Tom Hanks’ led News Of The World and now has thrown another competitor into the ring for a gong – Malcolm & Marie.
Now Malcolm & Marie is not a film for everyone. Shot during lockdown this is a pure two-hander of a film that is obviously filmmaker Sam Levinson’s (Assassination Nation) attempt at an Oscar… he even goes as far as shooting the film in black and white just in case we hadn’t picked up on the fact that it was supposed to be an artistic film.
Set during one night the film follows a discussion had by a couple after returning home from a film premiere. Filmmaker Malcolm (John David Washington – Tenet) has just screened his latest film to the media for the first time and is extremely concerned at how it is going to be received. During a number of rants he talks about white critics not understanding the movies that he is trying to make and in general is pretty negative about the art of film writing.
At first he is so wrapped up in his own concerns that he doesn’t notice that his girlfriend, Marie (Zendaya – The Greatest Showman) is angry at him. As the night goes on we learn that she is furious that he didn’t thank her during his speeches and also didn’t offer he role in the film that she claims he wrote about her life…a claim he disputes.
If you are someone that is expecting explosions and action sequences then Malcolm & Marie is certainly not a film for you – watching this film at times feels more like you are watching a theatre production than it does watching a piece of cinema.
If on the other hand you were a fan of Netflix’s A Marriage Story then you most likely enjoy this outing as well. From a cinematic point of view Levinson’s screenplay and his directional style are top notch. The lines flow so naturally between the characters that there are times when you begin to wonder whether or not you are watching reality TV or whether or not the lines were ad-libbed. Likewise with his direction Levinson follows the characters from room to room in one house in such that it makes the audience feel like they are there in the room watching the fight first-hand.
That fantastic script also provides two sensational acting performances. John David Washington brushes aside the criticism aimed at him for Tenet and here becomes a strong leading man that it totally believable, so much so that despite all his ranting and raging you do at times still feel for his character and the nerves and anxiety that he is feeling.
Then there is the performance of Zendaya. So far as an actress she has always seemed to take the softer kind of roles. Having said that in The Greatest Showman she stole most of the scenes that she was in, while in the Marvel universe she has been one of the shining lights in the Spider-Man franchise with her portrayal of MJ. But here Zendaya takes her performance to the next year. Here she is dramatic, captivating and delivers her lines like they are coming from her heart. Together Washington and Zendaya bring a chemistry to the screen that few on-screen couples ever do.
Malcolm & Marie is a seriously artistic film but it may have just once again thrown Netflix straight into the Awards pool was also revealing two leading stars that are ready to take the next step in their careers.
Malcolm & Marie is currently screening on Netflix and is for an adult audience.