Romance,  Drama

Malcolm and Marie Explained: Zendaya & John David Washington Make Magic

Malcolm and Marie

Director: Sam Levinson

Date Created: 2021-02-05 00:00

Editor's Rating:

Malcolm and Marie is a cautionary tale about what happens when a boyfriend forgets to say thank you to his long-time girlfriend at his film premiere. 

Malcolm and Marie explained
Malcolm and Marie explained poster

Nah, I’m just playing — but it really is something like that.

This movie was a lot to take in yet so little to take in at the same time. It was so minimalist and fine-tuned in terms of the cast and the set but the script, and the words, were very dense. 

I’m almost hesitant to write a review because there was a whole scene when Malcolm was spouting off about how upset he was with the review his movie received and he yelled about the stupidity of reviews, and the subjectivity of the word “authentic” and a lot of stuff I honestly did not catch on to because I did not like his tone. My goodness, listening to him rant made my vocal cords ache. 

Good thing they lived in the middle of nowhere with the way this man was shouting all the time. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The point is, I’m obviously still going to write this review whether anyone cares or not. So let’s get into it, shall we?

Let’s start with why I even had an interest in this film in the first place. Why most people did really — ZENDAYA, the queen.

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Absolutely admire how gracefully she’s transitioned from Disney Channel to more mature film and content, not only existing in those adult spaces but thriving in them. She’s continued to uphold class even coming from the often destructive Disney child star arena. It’s a rare feat. 

And honestly, watching her in Malcolm and Marie was not as uncomfortable or mentally incongruent as I thought it might’ve been. I was thoroughly impressed with how seamlessly she fit into a more adult role. How she comfortably slipped into the shoes of a leading lady, and those heels fit her quite well. The real question now is, what role can Zendaya NOT do?

She’s grown, and that was evident in this film but not in an excessive, in-your-face way. Other former Disney child stars often go to extremes trying to send the message that they’re grown by being more explicit in their style and their language but with Zendaya’s character, Marie, it didn’t feel like Zendaya was pushing or stretching beyond her bounds.

She simply was Marie. She simply was a grown, fully-fledged character, with intimate connections and past mistakes. There was no strain to becoming Marie.

And the natural essence of her character felt very genuine. It was easy for me to forgo my idea of who Zendaya is to allow Marie’s character to shine through. So hats off to Zendaya for real. She is truly talented and distinguished in what she does. The hype is valid.

John David Washington

Now it wouldn’t be right to talk about Zendaya without talking about the only other character in this film, John David Washington who is best known for being Denzel Washington’s son. Just looked him up, apparently, he’s been in a lot of big films lately which I have not yet taken the time to watch including, Blackkkansman and Tenet. I’m just uncultured, I’m working on it. 

Anywhoodles, he did the dang thang in this movie. Very believable, raw acting. His character felt really layered and deep and I could sense that both he and Zendaya had a really in-depth understanding of who Malcolm and Marie were. Even beyond the bounds of what was discussed in this movie. 

And man, they both had A LOT of lines but they delivered them in a very full-bodied way if that makes any sense. The lines and character were one and they embodied the lines in a way that was captivating. Captivating enough to keep me, as a viewer, hooked for almost two hours of just tension and dialogue between the two characters. 

The Relationship

malcolm marie Malcolm Marie 00 22 43 17 R rgb

Honestly speaking, watching Malcolm & Marie felt like watching two really good actors perform an intimate scene rather than an intimate insight into a real couple’s relationship. But that’s fine, that’s the consistent structure of the movie so it works.

Let’s speak on this tension in Malcolm & Marie’s relationship, shall we? Let’s extract some subject matter and apply it to the real world.

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Malcolm and Marie Explained: 6 Stand-Out Elements

1. Brutal Honesty

First of all, why is their language so harsh to one another? Like dang! The way they speak to each other is just TOO STRONG. And I get it. I get the point of the harsh language. It’s to show their unrestrained emotions. To show how vulnerable they allow themselves to be with one another. How they’re comfortable enough to be brutally honest with what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling. But to me, I don’t think it’s healthy to be brutal to people you claim to love. 

It’s good to be honest and to have open communication but it should NEVER be brutal. Brutality means that you don’t care about the damage you could potentially cause someone and causing someone else undue pain is not an act of love at all. 

If the truth hurts, then it hurts, and it hopefully leads someone toward being better. But MAKING the truth hurt and delivering the truth in a harmful manner is a different thing entirely and I feel like that’s the mode of communication that Malcolm and Marie were operating on. Not healthy. 

The yelling, the screaming… Ahh too much. This is not the kind of communication I could tolerate honestly.

2. One at a Time

But — what I do appreciate about Malcolm and Marie’s arguments is that they listened to one another. They gave each other the floor and allowed one another to speak without getting immediately defensive. 

The reality of it is that that’s probably how the script was written. How much would the audience be able to actually comprehend if the whole thing was just overlapping defensive dialogue?

Another thing that I noticed among M&M’s — Omg. I feel so ridiculous but I just realized that shortening the title makes it into a colorful sweet snack which is so opposite to the black-and-white bitterness that this film is. Is this an underlying anti-metaphor? Mind blown. 

Nah, I’m just playing again. I may be reading too deeply into this. 

But really, think about it…

Maybe the mac and cheese meant something. M&C?? Hmmmm….

But I digress —

Another thing that I noticed in M&M’s relationship is that … dang I don’t remember where I was going with this anymore. Give me a minute.

3. Self-Absorption

Oh yes, we as humans tend to be so consumed in our own worlds, our insecurities, and our emotional needs that we can’t notice the needs of those around us. Also, we tend to interpret and assume the intention of others through our own narrow, self-serving lens as well. We don’t take the time to examine how our own insecurities are affecting how we view others.

Instead of Marie being upset that Malcolm didn’t cast her as the lead of his movie, why didn’t she explicitly state that she wanted to act in his movie? She blames this loss of an opportunity on his oversight of her emotions rather than on her inability to be overt about what she wants. 

And honestly, Malcolm could’ve ended this fight a long time ago if he wasn’t so self-absorbed in his own trek to success and recognized that yeah, several different people did contribute to the success of his film.

They had smartphones, he could have posted a special thank you for Marie on social media. Got an airplane to write a thank-you to her in the sky. They could come together and make a new movie, ride on the success of his now more prominent name. 

4. Love

Those little moments of tenderness and affection despite all the madness reminded you why M&M stick it out at all. And how love is not always logical but strong enough to sustain even the toughest storms. 

They really did call each other out on their junk and hold up a mirror to their partner, exposing things about each other that they were not willing to acknowledge. I think that’s the beauty and pain of this level of intimacy.

5. After the War

Now that they understand each other better after this fight, I do think that a lot of good can come out of it if they’re willing to come together and make up for the misunderstanding of the past. And the ending of the movie was very promising. Even after all the turmoil they still ride for each other. They still stand together. 

6. Last little thought

While watching the Superbowl halftime show this past Sunday, my mom made an interesting comment. She said, “When women were performing last year, they changed outfits several times. A man is performing and he’s not changed his outfit once.” I was thinking that as I watched Marie change her outfit a few times while Malcolm was still in his dress shirt and pants, although he did eventually strip down one item at a time. Just food for thought.

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There were a lot of really beautiful shots throughout the film.

Malcolm & Marie silhouette shot
The best silhouette challenge.
Malcolm & Marie bathtub shot
Just stunning.
Malcolm & Marie disconnected shot
Love the use of mirrors here. The disconnection.
Malcolm & Marie united shot
The calm after the storm.

The cinematography was really beautiful and really intimate. The choice of a monochrome palette was a good one because it just naturally adds a deeper level of intimacy and timelessness to the whole atmosphere. 


The music was arguably the unspoken third character in this film. It did a great job of narrating the mood, and the subconscious dialogue in the character’s minds. Great, classic music choices. 


This was a very dialogue-driven film. It felt like something that someone made in a college scriptwriting class where the challenge was to create a 1.5-hour play with only two characters. I could easily imagine the stage directions that drove the characters’ words and actions.

The conflict slowly unfolds as we get to understand the depth of the characters’ pain. That this argument is about much more than just forgetting to say thank you in a speech. 

Because it was so dialogue-heavy, I often got lost or disconnected at times. Especially when Malcolm was ranting. I felt like I really couldn’t follow it all and that it wasn’t really necessary for the understanding of the movie which it really wasn’t. Maybe for the understanding of the character, but ultimately not important to understand all that’s being said so it felt okay to tune out at times. 

The dialogue would get a bit meta, where they were talking about film and actors as they are actively acting out the film as actors and my head spun a little. It felt like when someone tries to be so deep that they just lose you entirely.

But honestly, I’m sure other people understood and vibed with what he was saying. It may just be me who got a little lost.

In Conclusion…

This film tugged on my heartstrings just a little bit but didn’t overwhelm me. It was beautifully done and it is clearly evident that a lot of thought, love, time, effort, and heart was put into this film for sure. So the rating I give it is not based on quality but really on the emotional connection I had to this film personally. It was definitely better than average; it just didn’t resonate completely on my frequency. So for that —

Rating: 6.2/10

Did this movie meet/exceed your expectations? Let me know in the comments below!

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Peace, love, and lots of popcorn,



  • IMO Flicks

    When I'm not over-analyzing movies, I'm eating chocolate, belting my favorite songs, and binge-watching reality dating shows. Feel free to share your opinions with me and follow me through my social links!


  • Bolu

    The rant was important to me lol. I really connected to the words Malcolm was saying from an artist’s point of view so I could see why he was so frustrated. The dialogue is very fast paced and I paused and rewound quite often just to make sure I could fully absorb what was being said. However, since I have an artist’s mind, I did not pay as much attention to their relationship. At first glance, it just seemed like a toxic environment but you brought up how you must be really intimate with someone to be able to call them out the way they were calling each other out, but also that love is not always logical and that their relationship is actually strong. You also did not pick a side. I immediately picked Marie’s side due to how aggressive Malcolm was, so I could not see Marie at fault for anything, but reading your review shows me that they were both in the wrong.

    Great stuff. Thanks so much!

    • inmyopinionflicks

      This is the kind of stuff I like to see!! I didn’t connect with the rant but it’s cool to see how different aspects of the story connect with different people’s experiences. And to be honest, I sided with Marie at first too but I had to actively remind myself of my bias as a woman and try to see things from Malcolm’s point of view too because he did have some valid arguments.

      Thank you for sharing your opinion! Much appreciated 😘

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