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Netflix Original Malcolm and Marie: A review

I have felt that I have been behind on catching up on the new movies of 2020. I think we all miss physically going to the movie theater to see a new and exciting film much more than we realize. Another element of normalcy that we may have taken for granted. It’s hard to imagine how it is possible to create performance art during a time where social interaction is sensitive and dangerous. Malcolm and Marie was one of the first projects made during lockdown and was released as a Netflix original film on February 5, 2021. 

Malcolm and Marie was directed by Sam Levinson during the COVID-19 Pandemic lockdown in 2020. Emmy award winner and fashion icon, Zendaya, plays Marie and Golden Globe nominee and actor sensation John David Washington plays Malcolm. Zendaya paid homage to this beloved project on her instagram hours before it was released on February 4th. She predicted her mixed emotions and excitement about her first project as a “leading lady” in a film and was so grateful to call the project one of her own because of her production and financial involvement in its creation. 


In an interview with the New York Times, Zendaya details about the unique project. Zendaya recently won an Emmy for her performance as ‘Rue’ on the HBO original show “Euphoria.” She includes in the article how when lockdown began, the production team as well as the actors were out of work. Sam Levinson, who is also the director of Euphoria, as well as other crew members from the show, were given the opportunity to work through the production of Malcolm and Marie. Read more of Zendaya’s interview here. 

The circumstances of the pandemic lockdown actually aided in the filming of Malcolm and Marie. According to Zendaya’s previously mentioned Instagram post, the film was created over a 14 day period with herself, John David Washington, the director, Sam Levinson, and a 22 member crew. They had the opportunity to live together and quarantine in a house in Northern California in order to create the film. I thought this experience was so unique and fascinating because we are so used to seeing films that are made with an extensive cast and crew in multiple locations. This project is really special and I think it really enhanced their performances because they spent so much time in the same space during such a unique time in the world. 


Malcolm and Marie are in a long term relationship and have just returned home after Malcolm’s movie has just premiered. There is tension as Zendaya’s character, Marie, is making him Annie’s mac and cheese whilst he is carrying on about how happy he was about how the movie went. It continues to boil until Marie finally gives up why she is so tense. Malcolm forgot to thank her in his speech before the premiere. This is where their story begins. I had no idea what an experience I was in for when I began the movie. Malcolm forgetting to thank her in his speech was simply the beginning of the expression of love and anger that they had for each other. It was mesmerizing to watch and experience. 

The entire film is in black and white and takes place over the course of one night. I thought the use of black and white for the film was very elegant and timeless. According to Zendaya in an interview with Good Morning America, black and white was the chosen lens for the film because black actors weren’t given many opportunities in the old Hollywood film noir era. It is meant to pay tribute to the lack of representation of that era and give them the narrative that they deserve. I absolutely loved the timeless and simplicity of the use of a Black and White lens for the film. I think it adds to the authenticity of their relationship and how we as the audience are viewing something real. 

The trailer of the movie says that this is not a love story but a story about love. I thought that was very fitting for the film. Malcolm and Marie spend their evening on a merry-go-round of fighting to then reconcile, to one trigger word creating that boil of tension again. I think this is the kind of movie that you can only watch once to really experience it. I don’t think I could watch it again having the same experience as I did. I was so entranced by their story. I loved this movie because I had never seen anything like it. I appreciate it so much more knowing that it was created during lockdown and gave production opportunities during the pandemic. I thought this movie was spectacular and would definitely recommend experiencing Malcolm and Marie. I would give this movie a 9/10 and hope that people get to watch this spectacular film. 


Lily Polito

Drexel '23

Lily Polito Drexel University 2023
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