After Marriage Story last year, it’s just as stormy Malcolm & Marie, tipped to compete at the Oscars (although currently criticized by some because of the age gap between the actors), to make the eyes of Netflix subscribers soft.
This thwarted romance led by Zendaya and John David Washington will undoubtedly have an air of déjà vu for you …
Malcolm & Marie, What is it about ?
Still shot of the edge of an architect’s house bordered by tall grass. Names parade transparently over a sleepy landscape. The lights of a car wake up the frame. Malcolm and Marie come home from their evening. The calm of the place is immediately broken by the moods of the couple.
Between Malcolm and Marie that night, nothing goes. And yet it had all started so well.
Malcolm, a director of mediocre films, all of whom have suffered bad press, made a triumph hours earlier at the premiere of his new feature film – The Story of a 20-year-old black woman drug addict, trying as best she can to defeat her demons.
For the first time, Malcolm is acclaimed, compared to the greatest directors of his time and previous ones. Marie, the director’s companion, knows this very well: their life will change. Because in no time, her lover has become one of the biggest fish in the pond and everyone goes, according to her, “Lick his ass”.
Marie is angry with Malcolm. Not that she is fundamentally jealous of her partner’s success … but he made a more or less voluntary blunder: he did not mention it in his acceptance speech.
All the more upsetting since, according to the young woman, the film is inspired by her story – a former junkie, Marie went through hell before finding stability alongside her love.
During 1h46 of what looks like the confrontation of wounded egos, the two lovers, sometimes furious, sometimes accomplices, blame each other for their victories and their defeats.
Malcolm & Marie, a simple but powerful film
At first sight, Malcolm & Marie, available on Netflix on February 5, captivates neither by its sumptuous decorations nor by a complicated staging. On the contrary, everything is simplicity in the plastic of this nevertheless elegant film.
In black and white, the fiction of Sam Levinson takes place behind closed doors in an impressive hut, yet almost too small to endure the great dramas of its inhabitants. The camera, sometimes behind the bay window, sometimes inside a bedroom or a bathroom, captures the distant silhouettes of a Malcolm who calms his anger in the tall grass, or the face of a Marie in the throes of a painful introspection.
Nothing extraordinary in the way of filming: the work is visually classic, like his inspirations that we imagine waltzing from Casablanca at Sailor and Lula.
Yet it only takes a handful of seconds to realize that Malcolm & Marie has the power of films that mark the skin with a hot iron. Not by the images, not by the extraordinary, but for the content of his dialogues.
Malcolm & Marie, neat writing
Couples who love each other, tear each other apart, or love and tear each other apart, we have seen, read and experienced it hundreds of times. Yet thwarted love stories, if they are well written, remain the breeding ground for great emotions.
Here, writing is undoubtedly the first stone to the building of the mainstream but refined Malcolm & Marie. Often long, sometimes short because truncated by the moods of one or the other, the dialogues gain depth as the plot unfolds.
They open up on the pride of Malcolm, who boasts of having pleased all “Little white and pedantic journalists”. The man, at the same time as he lets his joy burst forth, immediately demonstrates his contempt for an over-educated white elite, who according to him criticizes instead of creating.
While the director explodes with happiness after seducing even the pretentious journalists of Variety thanks to her masterpiece, Marie remains silent. From their first volatile exchanges then arise confrontations with infected roots.
One accuses the other of being a mediocre man who only knows how to imitate, never create, the other responds by enumerating the defects of the first, and it is a brown web that is woven around egos, obsessions and failures of the couple.
The two end up paying the price for a budding celebrity, to whom you have to acclimatize without ever dressing up.
Malcolm & Marie, the importance of banality
But if Malcolm & Marie takes as subject of study a couple of artists (Marie wanted, before, to be an actress), which inevitably induces problems with which ordinary people never have to confront, its stakes have a learned air of déjà-vu .
This dispute, we would have all been able to experience it. You, me and the others.
We could have, tipsy, review our ambitions, accuse those of the other of taking up all the space, crush our partner so as not to risk facing our own problems, insult, make love, leave, come back, insult again – but not with “Asshole”, with words that hurt even more: “Mediocre”, “Failed”, “pretentious”.
Malcolm & Marie, it is the story of a night that we all lived and that we still remember. Like what it is often in the banal that we carve out the extraordinary.
Malcolm & Marie, a convincing pair
Zendaya and John David Washington threw themselves body and soul into Malcolm & Marie. It shows.
Moreover, while the shooting of the film had been put on stand-by because of the Covid-19, Zendaya proposed to the director (with whom she had already collaborated on Euphoria) to revise the budget downwards and to go behind closed doors so that the project continues despite the pandemic.
Shot in record time (June 17 to July 2, 2020) Malcolm & Marie put his pair of actors to the test. Zendaya told Deadline :
“There were days that were emotionally exhausting and hard […] I slept all day so I could shoot at night. But we were surrounded by love and very supported. ”
That the actress of only 24 years old rest assured, her efforts will not have been in vain. With the support of her partner on screen, the youngest artist to ever receive a Golden Globe deploys all the facets of his talent, which we already knew to be plural but not so protean, with success.
The two actors, scrutinized by Sam Levinson’s intimate camera, detail their skills in 1:46 of grimaces, damaged smiles, raised eyebrows and mocking grins.
There are only them throughout the film. And they never tire us. Neither do they bend under the task incumbent upon them. They embody Malcom and Marie with ardor, with ferocity, transforming what could have been an exercise in style into a sincere, brutal or brutally sincere fiction.
Malcolm & Marie No matter how often we snoop on the fatal side of love, it remains the happy reminder that nights always follow days.
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