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‘Malcolm & Marie’: A Story Surrounding Love?

How does a film standout in a sea of motion pictures? Ask Sam Levinson’s Malcolm & Marie. Although Levinson developed and produced Malcolm & Marie during the early stages of Covid-19, this film does not miss the mark! The black and white film fully dissects the dynamic of Malcolm and Marie’s relationship. Malcolm & Marie is an intense and intimate peek into the multifaceted nature of love, in all of its textures, hues and shadows. 

As this movie takes place entirely in a luxury house, their film relies on the characterization of the couple through dialogue, action, or lack thereof. Early critics argued that this airy yet amped atmosphere seems arbitrary. However, like the character Malcolm states, “Cinema doesn’t need to have a f*cking message. It needs to have a heart and electricity.” 

Actors John David Washington and Zendaya breathe life into Malcolm and Marie. Malcolm, a filmmaker, has just premiered his movie and revels in this accomplishment. His movie was influenced by Marie, an ex drug addict, a model, and his girlfriend. While he gleefully drinks and dances in celebration, Marie gloomily mopes around the house, clearly upset. This first impression sets the dynamic between Malcolm and Marie. Malcolm finds validation through art— purpose. Marie is null, void and seemingly attached to Malcolm. This establishes Malcolm as a successful and fulfilled artist and Marie as his supporter, seemingly without any successes to call her own. 

Their love seems conditional. Malcolm is like Pygmalion: Marie is his ivory statue, his muse. She has survived the trenches of addiction and lived a life he’d only see on television. She acts as his gateway to the less glamorous and glittery realities of life, and loves her for her story. But Marie loves Malcolm because he needs her. She is his greatest inspiration and without her, his movie and life would be in shambles. While Malcolm is a self-absorbed narcissist, Marie appeases his ego and continues to perpetuate her victimhood.

Marie’s disengagement and absence in celebrating Malcolm’s milestone had a simple fix. The root of her discontent stemmed from Malcolm not mentioning her in his speech. Marie simply wanted to be appreciated. She just wanted Malcolm to acknowledge how much she gave him. Frankly, she gave her life to this movie, his movie. The cure to their tumultuous, nightlong confrontation was simply just genuine appreciation. 

As a viewer, this left me confused about their relationship.The aesthetic camera angles and soulful soundtrack of the film almost blinded me from their dysfunction. No, love isn’t monolithic— it is not a continual state of joy and ease. But love should not be a chaotic two hour fight teetering on the edge of a drug relapse, self harm and sex. That is not love. That is toxic. 

That’s not to say that love is always perfect. Moments like these in Malcolm & Marie expose the often gritty, grimy, and gruesome nature of love. Love is a cycle of constantly choosing someone, which can be difficult. Love is work. Sam Levinson’s Malcolm & Marie showcases the real struggles that can surface when one partner fails to show their gratitude for the other. 

Malcolm & Marie is available to stream on Netflix.

 
Cimaya McCreary

Oglethorpe '24

Cimaya McCreary is a full-time psychology student by day and part-time music playlist creator by night! Occasionally, she gets her life in order -- it's a journey.
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