‘Malcolm & Marie’: Writer Sam Levinson Addresses Film’s Role with Criticism

The long-awaited Netflix film Malcolm & Marie was released on the streamer on Feb. 5, and it immediately brought upon fans’ reactions and plenty of criticism. The black-and-white movie, written and directed by Euphoria‘s Sam Levinson, stars Zendaya and John David Washington. Levinson addressed the role his movie has with criticism in a new interview — read on to see what he had to say.

Malcolm & Marie
Zendaya and John David Washington | Netflix

What ‘Malcolm & Marie’ is about

The drama film is centered around a couple working in the entertainment industry. Malcolm (John David Washington), is a filmmaker, while his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya), is a model.

Similar to her role in Euphoria, Zendaya’s character in Malcolm & Marie is someone who deals with addiction. Malcolm creates a movie about a woman overcoming addiction, and Marie struggles with the fact that he didn’t thank her in his speech at the movie’s premiere.

Following Malcolm’s movie premiere, the film follows the couple through one evening in their mansion, as they argue and make up repeatedly. They also discuss critics, film “ownership,” and the faults in their relationship.

Malcolm & Marie came out to mixed criticism.

What people are saying about the film

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There was a mixed bag in terms of reaction to Malcolm & Marie. Fans took to Twitter to voice their opinions.

“I’m 9 minutes into Malcolm & Marie and oh my god 9 minutes is an excruciatingly long time,” writer Zoé Samudzi said on Twitter.

Actor and writer Kalen Allen enjoyed Malcolm & Marie, citing his film degree for his “appreciation.”

“The thing about Malcolm & Marie is it’s an art film,” he expressed in a tweet. “I think you would have to have an appreciation for filmmaking, cinematography, and screenwriting to truly appreciate it! I found it captivating but more so because I was analyzing it. But I also have a film degree.”

In her Vulture review, critic Angelica Jade Bastién compared Malcolm & Marie to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), saying that the former falls short of the ladder.

“Films like [Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?] burnish our curiosity. Malcolm & Marie nullifies it,” Bastién wrote. “It’s a closed circuit, an ouroboros. At one point, during one of Malcolm’s endless protestations about the state of modern filmmaking, he declares, ‘Cinema doesn’t need to have a f*cking message. It needs to have a heart and electricity.'”

Bastién ended her review: “It’s a shame the creators behind Malcolm & Marie didn’t realize the film has neither.”

What Sam Levinson had to say about ‘Malcolm & Marie’ criticism

Before the film was released to the public, Levinson discussed the film’s role with critics in a new interview with Esquire.

“Malcolm gets such a stellar, glowing review from the critic, but not in the way he wants it to be,” Levinson said. “It completely unmoors him as a character and gets to the root of his narcissism.”

Levinson, when asked if Malcolm & Marie may be “challenging” for people to critique due to the film being about criticism itself, replied that Marie agrees with the critic in the movie.

“I don’t necessarily know why it would be hard to review in that sense,” he continued. “I’m not sure everyone sees it that way but it’s an absurdist scene at its core. I always go back to the idea that Marie agrees with the critic!”

He concluded: “I think it’s quite evident that Marie is the gravitational pull of the entire piece and that she is what holds everything together, whether or not she was getting the credit for it.”

Malcolm & Marie is available to stream on Netflix.