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When Zendaya announced her involvement in Netflix’s original film Malcolm and Marie, I was ecstatic. Since my elementary school days of waiting every week for a new Shake It Up episode, I have been following Zendaya’s Hollywood career and rise to true cinematic stardom.

The movie released on January 29 and was immediately hit with some scathing reviews. I tried to limit my exposure to the reviews before I could watch the film myself, but headlines such as “‘Malcom and Marie’ Can’t Seem to Find its Meaning” were almost unavoidable. It seemed that Hollywood had reached a consensus: this movie was an over-hyped flop.

A lot of the criticism focused around white director and screenwriter Sam Levinson. Some critics, such as Robert Daniels of the Guardian saw the movie as Levinson’s way to use the character of Malcolm as a “blackshield” to vent his white frustrations about the film industry. I can definitely see where Daniels is coming from. At times, Malcom’s monologues in the movie don’t feel like they are adding to the plot, but instead are just a result of the writer ranting in the screenplay. Overall, I will admit I was let down by a movie I had very high hopes for.

The black-and-white movie was filmed in the summer of 2020 –– while many states were still reaching the peak of the pandemic’s first wave. It features just two main characters, filmmaker Malcom (John David Washington) and his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya). The plot begins after the couple returns home from the premiere of Malcolm's new film, and soon they tumble into argument after argument.

Marie says she feels under-appreciated because Malcom forgot to thank her in his speech and acknowledge the influence her life had on his film. They begin to jump from issue to issue, and the plot gets convoluted and hard to follow. At certain points, the bickering pauses as the couple acts totally in love as if nothing ever happened –– before the cycle of fighting begins again.

To me, the plot seemed to be trying too hard to be insightful and artistic, and at times just came off as way too cliche. Truly the only thing that made the movie even remotely worthwhile was the acting. Zendaya and John David Washington both gave amazing, emotional performances, and I just wish the script would have matched the acting caliber they set.

Was I disappointed by Malcolm and Marie? Yes, for sure. But was I disappointed by Zendaya and what she was able to do with a plot that just fell flat? Not in the slightest.


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