Since the Golden Globes weekend is right at our door, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the best movies that could be nominated for the Oscar season this year. My latest find is a black and white Netflix flick directed by newcomer Sam Levinson, which doesn’t seem like much on the surface, but hides a monster of a script that is truly mesmerizing.
This is Malcolm & Marie, starring John David Washington (TENET and BlackKklansman) and Zendaya (Spider-Man: Far from home) as an artistic couple who is probably going through the biggest argument of their lives in this beautifully shot neo-noir romantic story…or is it?
I just presented this as a romantic movie, but I’m not quite sure I would categorize this as such. For a couple that is supposed to be in love, there is an incredible amount of shouting and personal attacks in the script to make this a ‘feel good’ movie (which it is obviously not). In a confined set-piece that reminds us of a play, we are introduced to the Malcolm and Marie couple. Malcolm (John David Washington, becoming more and more one of my favourite actors) is a movie director who just attended the first screening of his latest feature film. Marie (Zendaya, a truly great performance) is his young girlfriend with a troubled past who tries to succeed in life as an actress. Both of them just came back to their house in the California hills, late at night, after attending the premiere of Malcolm’s film. So far so good…until the point where Marie begins to argue with Malcolm, asking him why he has not thanked her for inspiration during his speech.
This simple question will lead to an entire night of intensive arguing, where the two lovers will experience both love and hate for each other while revisiting the creative process behind Malcolm’s film and also their past as troubled human beings. This is perhaps the longest night of their lives as a couple, it definitely feels like it for us.
It’s important to mention that the setting of this film is pretty simple. For the entire runtime, the couple does not leave the house nor the grounds once, walking across different rooms and outside with a cigarette in hand. At first, we might think this is boring, but it captures all the essence of the tension between the two characters and the heavy air that flows inside this house at night. Without a big surprise, the cinematography is beautiful and intensifies the drama of their argument. As both characters seem pretty chic and sophisticated (they both came back in their evening outfits), there is a luxurious feel to the film that makes it suave and elegant, almost a Film Noir of the 30s and 40s when Casablanca became a classic. Although the context is actual, the nature of the script also makes this film look like old French romantic movies from the New wave of cinema.
The pearl that lies in the shell of Malcolm & Marie is the script. Sharing such amazing chemistry, both Washington and Zendaya deliver long monologues throughout that are vivid and exploding with emotion. We surely saw many arguments on film in the past few years, but this one will stay in your head for being badly realistic and suffocating. It reminded me of that argument scene in Mariage Story where Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson were at each other’s throats. With no surprise, this is an actors’ movie, as they make most of the wonder for the audience. There is a nomination buzz surrounding Zendaya, which she absolutely deserves for her subtle intensity, but I wouldn’t leave out John David Washington for his touching moments, explaining his love for Marie, even considering all the trouble she caused in his life. Zendaya is mostly known for playing Marie-Jane Watson in the new MCU Spider-Man movies alongside Tom Holland, but this will truly make her an actress known for her great talent and not just her pretty looks.
All things considered, Malcolm & Marie is already one of my favourite movies of the year. It’s beautiful to look at, intense and dangerously sensual for an entire movie about an evening argument. Watching this at night, with a nice glass of whisky to accompany them, you will have a mesmerizing experience, believe me. I wish the cast and crew all the luck in the world before the award ceremonies this year, as this is great intimate cinema.
Listen kids, as a little wink to the film, it’s always important to say ‘thank you’ in life. It gets easier that way.