REVIEW: Repetitive dialogue makes ‘Malcolm and Marie’ mediocre

Zendaya and John David Washington do verbal battle in this new romantic drama on Netflix.

Washington stars as the titular Malcolm in this feature, a director who’s just coming home from the premiere of his first big movie. After getting home, with his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya), Malcolm begins talking about how his movie will be interpreted by the public as well as his thoughts and feelings about being a filmmaker.

As Malcolm continues, Marie interjects into the conversation, and the two begin talking about the film and its influences. Eventually, the talking turns to debating and as a result, their relationship is explored, along with their backgrounds.

Films like this really rely on mainly two things, the script and the acting. While the latter is fine, the screenplay, unfortunately, becomes stale as the film goes on.

The movie feels overstuffed with venom and bitterness, in between descriptions of today’s film industry. Both performers throw verbal haymakers at each other for just over an hour and a half, without the conversation ever seeming to evolve.

The initial conversations they have offer some interest and perspective. Yet after a while, the whole affair becomes repetitive.

It’s not an issue that this is a dialogue heavy film, either. Plenty of films have captured these types of situations nicely. Most notable are probably the movies “Before Sunrise,” “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight.” The difference is that those flicks had the two lead characters engage in discussions that change and shifted over the run time.

MalcMarieBlog
Courtesy Netflix.

“Malcolm and Marie,” meanwhile, seems stuck on the same point of debate. Perhaps for a short film, this could have worked nicely, but in a feature, it feels stretched beyond its limits.

Fortunately, the film is greatly benefited by its main stars. From start to finish, Zendaya and Washington are absolutely superb. The emotions of these characters are so thoroughly brought to life. The anger and sadness both experience is what holds an audience in and makes a viewer stay invested.

The camera work here is also nicely done. Despite taking place in a single house, the film doesn’t feel constrained, and there are several shots capturing the characters the right way for the right time in their conversation.

There are aspects of “Malcolm and Marie” that work phenomenally well, but it certainly gets undercut now and then by other issues. As a showcase of acting, this one is watchable, but it can also test patience. 3 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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