Malcolm and Marie, the latest drama movie released by Netflix on February 5th, tells a story about an unstable relationship between the titular characters, starring Zendaya and John David Washington. I anticipated the movie, as I expected it to be another success after Marriage Story, an Oscar-nominated drama, touching upon the themes of relationship, love and loneliness. Maybe because I am not an idealist and maybe because heart-breaking stories are the most compelling ones, I was very happy to see that Netflix decided to produce this aesthetically pleasing picture telling a story of a very unstable couple. The black-and-white and single-location movie convention intrigued me so much that to get more context and understand the ideas behind the movie better, I researched the background of its production.
The plot of Malcolm and Marie is very simple as it revolves around an argument between the two characters after Malcolm forgot to thank his girlfriend, Marie, at the premiere of his movie. As Sam Levinson, the director, himself admitted, the story was based on a real-life event when he himself forgot to thank his wife at a movie premiere. [Spoiler] Starting with this incident more and more layers and problems in the relationship between Malcolm and Marie are revealed, yet the movie does not give a straight-forward answer as to whether the couple managed to deal with all the issues [End spoiler].
Malcolm and Marie is a single location movie. It was shot entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic when the whole of Hollywood was on hold. To keep the crew busy while the works on Euphoria are halted, Sam Levinson tossed with the idea of making a single-location project with Zendaya. Out of that, an idea for a relationship drama emerged. Even though the pandemic does not exist in Malcolm and Marie’s world, because of the COVID-19 restrictions the film-makers were pushed towards creating a real-time film set in one location only. What is more, due to Covid there were only 12 people allowed on set at any given moment, and the whole shoot took only 14 days.
One of the dazzling elements in the movie is, certainly, Marie’s dress. This custom-made masterpiece was created by Law Roach, Zendaya’s image-architect, and Jason Rembert, ALIÉTTE designer, who wanted to achieve “an iconic, timeless look that could last forever”. The dress was supposed to have movement, hence the metallic fabric it was made of. The dress, even though designed especially for the film, is now available for sale and can be pre-ordered on the ALIÉTTE site.
I believe that background stories, inspirations and anecdotes help us in understanding and interpreting movies better, as well as enjoy them more. Malcolm and Marie is no exception. Only after reading about the story behind the production of the movie I understood why this Hollywood drama was produced in a very not-Hollywood way i.e. in a single location and with real-time passing on the screen. Even though it was Covid that pushed the producers towards such a convention, I hope that from now on Hollywood will embrace such productions more often.