What does love look like? Every couple has arguments and disagreements, but the typical, healthy couple looks for solutions to their disagreements in order to find themselves back on common ground. That is not Malcolm and Marie. The two characters that this film is named for spend the entirety of their time together attempting to tear each other down with emotionally charged monologues that even an enemy wouldn’t stand for.
Directorially, the film is beautiful. The angles and close-ups really show us exactly what each character is feeling. When the film starts, we see Malcolm jovial and pouring a drink, high from a victory at an awards ceremony. His opposite, Marie, remained unmoved as she prepared a small snack for her lover. The look on her face tells the viewer that she does not share Malcolm’s enthusiasm about his success. The audience is left to wonder why but the question is soon answered as their second argument transpires.
As far as plot goes, it’s fair to say that this film lacks a comprehensive story. The dialogue between monologues gives the viewers backstory into what has transpired earlier in the evening which is also why Marie is discontent in the first place. However, outside of the troubled couple seperating from one another for their brief moments alone, nothing truly tanspires. We do learn that the movie that Malcolm has won an award for was a movie based off of Marie’s life (though he does deny this) and we also learn that Marie is a talented actor and that Malcolm deliberately and maybe spitefully, did not cast her.
The character of Malcolm is a shining example of a toxic partner. He has no redeeming qualities outside of his art which, according to Marie, is not 100% his own. Malcolm is so absorbed in his victory that he doesn’t notice his woman’s poor attitude until after they reach their home and she has begun to make him mac ‘n’ cheese. When Marie admits that she would rather talk about what is bothering her tomorrow, he literally antagonizes her until she confesses. He consistently gaslights her and verbally berates and puts the woman down ruthlessly. There is a scene where Marie allows herself to be vulnerable during this skirmish and asks Malcolm to not make her feel “like shit” before she asks him a very heartfelt and valid question. Malcolm doesn’t miss a beat and proceeded to do exactly what she asked him not to. One can truly see how much of an entitled asshole he is halfway through the film when he condemns a critic that actually gave him a positive review. There is no pleasing his character nor is there any way to appeal to his higher self.
Marie isn’t necessarily perfect either, but it is easy to see that she was not the aggressor nor the antagonist during this particular evening. As the two reach their home and Malcolm is busy pouring only himself a drink while trash talking seemingly everyone in his industry, Marie makes her man a bowl of mac ‘n’ cheese without him asking and without making anything for herself. She does this to placate the man-child knowing that no matter what was said, Malcolm would find himself upset. As a recovering addict, there were illusions made to Marie’s troubled past, but it is obvious that she is working to better herself. And though she did contribute her fair share to this spiraling argument, she often walked away to allow herself to cool off before Malcolm finds and attacks her again. Ultimately, her frustrations come from the fact that Malcolm used her life story for his film, and not only did he refuse to cast her, knowing she is also an actress but also forgot to thank her during his acceptance speech. Her irritation is valid but Malcolm prances around taking accountability.
Zendaya, who plays Marie, does a phenomenal job in bringing this character to life. If shes not speaking, she was emoting in such a realistic way one could forget she was acting. Her monologues were delivered with such passion and conviction that it would be easy to believe that she was reliving moments from personal experience. One particular scene that is really wow worthy was the knife scene. Here, Marie is out to prove to Malcolm that she could act better than the woman casted for Malcolm’s movie. Both Zendaya and Marie fade away as this new character is introduced and quietly threatens the egomaniac Malcolm by brandishing a large knife. Though the scene is fairly short, it is pure entertainment to Zendaya play a character playing a character.
This is not a film about a couple in love and working to overcome a rough patch. This movie is about two people who are dedicated to hurting one another with their words and actions. Just as the film’s tagline suggests, “this is not a love story.” Shockingly, watching a couple argue for an hour and a half is not entertaining, it’s frustrating and stressful. In good conscience, I rate the film a solid 2.5 out of ten.
Featured Image obtained from IMDB