“This isn’t a love story but a story about love.”
You almost got it, Sam Levinson. Malcolm & Marie is not a love story, but if there’s any love to be seen in this film, it’s so twisted and tainted beyond repair that it’s become an ugly shadow of whatever it was when the characters first met. We meet Malcolm and Marie as they return from the premiere of the former’s film, which he’s hoping will lead to critical acclaim. But as the two settle in for the evening, tensions rise and revelations surface as they contend with the rocky waters in their relationship and test the strength of their love.
Zendaya and John David Washington do some of their best work in the black-and-white picture, giving breath to Levinson’s laborious script and pulling viewers into an emotional tug of war that lacks a winner. There’s a familiar hauntedness about Marie, who shares a few significant milestones with the character that earned Zendaya her title as youngest Emmy Award winner ever. While Rue Bennett is in the middle of her struggle, Marie is a recovering addict who, after years of therapy, is almost unflinchingly self-aware. She lays her wounds bare, allowing Malcolm to pick at them like a hungry vulture, because whether he’s hurting her or loving her, at least he’s paying attention to her. That is what their relationship has become at this point: a cycle of Marie asking for Malcolm to give her affection, attention, love and respect, and him giving just enough to keep her on his line.
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