For a few years now I have had some strange feelings about Sam Levinson, Hollywood’s latest nepotism case, famed showrunner of the Zendaya fronted Euphoria. In both his TV and film career, Levinson has been very interested in producing content that attempts to delve into issues of exploitation, oppression and sexualisation, without ever wondering if his own work is a part of the problem. In Malcolm & Marie this blind spot is evident. Levinson also fumbles with his script, making his insecurities and opinions the focus of the film. Instead of nailing the characterisation that the premise demands (which could have made for a fantastic film), he brings his own insecurities and beliefs to the forefront, boring the audience after 30 minutes.
The film follows Malcolm, John David Washington and Marie, Zendaya, as they fight their way through the night that follows the premiere of writer-director Malcolm’s newest film. He’s forgotten to thank Marie for her contribution to the film (as we come to find out, it’s essentially her life story), and she’s mad. The audience is strung along by a series of monologues, some of which flirt with interesting ideas, but devolve into repetitive, cruel discussions that fall out of love with the overall structure of the film. There’s initially something engaging about the black-and-white film, the costumes and the performances from Zendaya and Washington, but the script is just too weak to hold the audience close. It’s likely that Malcolm & Marie will lose most of its audience about halfway through, when Levinson begins to air his own gripes (talking about critics, race, privilege and identity) with the belief that his viewpoint is all a film needs to be interesting.
Streaming on Netflix here