‘Malcolm & Marie’ funny, not easy to define

Like the free jazz of John Coltrane or Miles Davis? “Malcolm & Marie” is a film that runs free and refuses or easily defined.

It is elusive and difficult to penetrate despite its rather straightforward set up of a couple, debating among themselves and each other if their relationship is truly sustainable, almost like a stage play in its approach. 

Malcolm & Marie is a film about two broken people, whose lives are lost for very different reasons. 

Rather it be from insecurity, addiction or emotional turmoil, it’s about two people who are both toxic to each other but are also meant for each other in their own unusual way. 

It’s a romance, one that’s possibly headed toward failure.

The film follows lovers Malcolm and Marie as they come home from the premiere of Malcolm’s new film.

Malcolm is excited about the whole experience while Marie seems annoyed. She’s not happy and Malcolm, who knows her well and has a sense that all is not well with her. 

She denies that she’s upset, but he pushes on to see what’s wrong with her. As the movie progresses, we get an additional 80 minutes of two people verbally unloading on each other. 

The acting is well done. John David Washington (Malcolm) and Zendaya (Marie) are both excellent. 

Zendaya is mesmerizing in her role, carrying a bitterness and a sarcastic wit, while also allowing her emotional vulnerabilities to shine through. 

Washington’s performance is also fantastic. He speaks with eloquence and grace, as well as the intensity that is clearly inherited from his father, the great Denzel Washington. He captures a physical versatility as well. 

The film is certainly flawed in several ways, basically being a series of long monologues.

The film’s director, Sam Levinson is known for crafting scenes that are powerful and emotionally challenging, although he can just as well veer off into diatribes that make his films seem as if he’s trying too hard to be profound and unique.

“Malcolm & Marie” is a film that often oscillates between tones, themes and character motivation. 

It is occasionally sad, funny, joyous and tragic. It is a film that is often elusive, leaving you more befuddled and curious than you were when the film began. 

In the end, viewers may like it, hate it, or just think that it was OK. But movie-goers will be thinking after watching it, and likely won’t be forgetting about it anytime soon.