Thursday, December 1, 2022

Malcolm & Marie review – IGN

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Malcolm & Marie may not take place during a pandemic, but it sure is. The first Hollywood feature film written, funded and filmed fully locked out (it was filmed in the summer of 2020), the two-character, one-location, black-and-white black-and-white drama from Euphoria creator Sam Levinson feels incredibly repetitive by the time its end credits roll is launched. On the way to its grueling finale, however, it presents at the very least some interesting film sparks – you could even call it lively in places – with a pair of great performances from Zendaya and John David Washington, which make the experience to. Washington plays Malcolm Elliot, a burgeoning independent filmmaker coming out of his latest film, while Zendaya plays his longtime girlfriend Marie (No-Last-Name), a former actress whose addiction issues have , at least in part, influenced Malcolm’s film. Taking place in one evening, the story begins when the couple arrive at their posh Malibu home – rented to them by the production – after Malcolm’s big premiere. They are both slightly drunk and incredibly messy; it is rather charming at first. Malcolm is proud of the success of the evening, but Marie is visibly embarrassed by certain events and interactions throughout the night, which Malcolm claimed not to notice. The late night mac and cheese she cooks for him comes with a cold shoulder.

Eventually, after tiptoeing up the subject of their relationship (and instead discussing the various white movie reviews that don’t get Malcolm’s POV), the couple begin a slow but steady implosion, filled with accusations of inauthenticity, selfishness and mutual cruelty that they seem to use as a defense mechanism, despite their true love for each other. Much has been said about the film’s review before, but it’s not as offensive as it sounds. Malcolm doesn’t have a kind word to say about them (even those who write positive reviews for him, but not as he would like), but his fiery rants are captured in a way that seems tonically ironic. Washington moves through the frame with reckless abandon, gesturing wildly and childishly, as the camera falls either on Marie’s reaction – she is amused by how disturbed he is by “the white lady of the LA Times” – or firmly holds back. , allowing Malcolm to almost disappear into the background, becoming tiny and helpless. It’s really fun to watch.

But the film’s take on this relationship between creator and critic, and the frustration inherent in politicizing, racializing, and scrutinizing from a distance, is its one incisive element at a distance. Malcolm is, to some extent, Levinson’s spokesperson, voicing his frustrations with the state of cinema and speech, and many other things, and the character is shaded enough to feel like Levinson is handing over in question or laughs at some of his statements. However, this borderline apologetic and ironic approach extends to almost every aspect of the film. Marie, for example, laments being treated as just an extension of Malcolm – a muse whose trauma he absorbs and regurgitates – but the character, as she writes it, doesn’t feel like she has a lot of existence outside of his addiction, and the way Malcolm uses it. In fact, drawing attention to this flaw in Malcolm’s work only magnifies it in Levinson’s disease.

The two characters constantly announce their respective stories, but they never act like they have a past outside of this 100-minute scene. Stylistically, the film oscillates between a static, minimalist approach and the improvised, freewheeling aesthetic of John Cassavetes (particularly his micro-budget New York indies from the 1950s and 1960s, which used jazz, intimate close-ups. , grainy black and white. film and tight spaces). But one key difference is that the characters in Cassavetes – even those played by non-professional actors – all felt like people with a full past, no matter how fragmented its presentation was. They had lives and perspectives that existed outside of all four corners of the frame. The same cannot be said of Malcolm & Marie, a film in which the very concepts of “character” and “backstory” exist in the service of advancing a narrative framework, rather than telling a story on real. people, with real thoughts and opinions beyond the platitudes of cinematic discourse.

The result is a film where every dramatic turn seems more random than surprising. It has ebb and flow, of course – a compound of quieter moments followed by stronger moments – but the movie might as well have ended in forty, sixty, or eighty minutes. I would even go so far as to say that I should have. By the time he reaches the final stages of his confrontation, he is beyond his welcome, as the characters are running out of new, interesting, or surprising places.

This is all particularly disappointing due to the remarkable work of Zendaya and Washington. American films so rarely feature dancing unless they’re musicals, but when Washington bursts into celebration in the film’s opening minutes, it turns on the screen – a fire extinguished by Zendaya’s icy stillness. . Levinson films these opening moments from afar and in uninterrupted takes, capturing the path Malcolm and Marie interact with spaces; without saying a word, the conflicting physical energies of Zendaya and Washington infuse the film with tension and intrigue. Unfortunately, these air as soon as Levinson’s dialogue escapes their lips, and they become devices not only for opinion, but also for the plot function. Whenever an argument is to ensue, they all turn to the camera to tell you why, when their body language should have been enough. It’s the rare film that could sound more honest and engaging on silent.

Their arguments about authenticity expose a central dramatic question that remains unanswered: If Malcolm and Marie constantly laugh at each other’s artifice, what is real about them? It’s not something the film frames with any intention. The characters mention their experiences and emotional shortcomings in words – my God, there are so many words – but their behavior is so rarely allowed to reveal anything about who they are underneath.

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Marie lights cigarettes with lighters no matter what room she is in, but this detail is little more than sweet idiosyncrasy. Did she run out of matches? Has she forgotten them elsewhere? Does she have lighters scattered around the house? The lighter question isn’t overwhelming, but it is emblematic of how the film treats his character traits. Smoking, for example, is Mary’s last remaining vice after giving up her drug-using habits, but you wouldn’t know it from the way she looks at her cigarette. The scenes where she smokes in an open door show Levinson framing her in relation to Malcolm, while the lingering specter of her addiction when she smokes only appears in words (this, too, towards the end of the film).

Likewise, the film opens with Mary making a Malcolm Mac and Cheese – but why? Is it one of his childhood favorites? A cheap meal from the first days of their relationship? Or did they forget to buy something else? The detail itself doesn’t matter, but if these questions were asked, they would be hard pressed to come up with even speculative answers depending on who these people are. After a while, the lack of details adds up.

Authenticity (or the lack of it) is an understandable artistic anxiety that underlies much of the film. Malcolm doesn’t have the life experience to tell the story of an addict, played here by Zendaya, who also stars as an addict in Levinson’s Euphoria. The show is a remake of an Israeli series, and while Levinson himself has struggled with addiction, any story that transforms itself and takes into account the experiences of others is bound to result in some form of impostor syndrome (even for a program with so many critical hits). The question of authenticity arises in relation to Malcolm’s film, but it is approached in such a linear and mechanical way that it is totally uninteresting. The question is answered – in words, as the two characters offer various elements of their story as justification – rather than meditated on.

There’s no lingering inner mystery to fight with, even though Zendaya and Washington keep the characters’ wheels spinning, long after the film has run out of steam.

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