Malcolm & Marie Review: Criticism, Criticized



Netflix promotional material for Malcolm & Marie, 2021.

Official release poster for Malcolm & Marie, 2021. (Netflix)

Malcolm & Marie is a new R-rated movie on Netflix, starring Zendaya and John David Washington, in which the two have just arrived home after a film directed by Washington’s character, Malcolm, has just debuted. He starts off celebrating, but the viewer can immediately tell that Zendaya’s character, Marie, is upset with him about something. The movie, which entirely takes place over one night, shows the two characters argue in a way that forces them to unravel each other’s psyches, making them rethink their relationship and admit to things they aren’t proud of.

As a warning to anyone who may wish to watch this movie, it is rated R and contains sexual themes, nudity, and sensitive themes, such as mental health and suicide. If these are things you wish to avoid, this might not be the movie to watch.

The movie itself is engaging and keeps the viewer entertained, and I would personally recommend it to anyone looking for something to watch, especially while trapped inside during the pandemic and the winter weather. However, while the movie is quite good, something of note is the criticism of it by journalists and reviewers working for larger organizations.

The movie, at times, very blatantly criticizes film critics for a few different things. One of the biggest criticisms is made during one of Malcolm’s dialogues, in which he is criticizing one of the first reviews for his film as making everything about identity, as the review makes special efforts to point out that the director was a black man:

“You can’t hang everything on identity. You can’t say that I brilliantly subverted this trope ’cause I’m Black, but I fell into this one because I’m a ******* man! Identities are constantly shifting. Does the male gaze exist if the filmmaker’s gay and not straight? And to what degree? What if they’re asexual? What if they’re transitioning and you don’t even know it?”

This criticism did lead to many big outlets getting upset, which proves the point the movie was trying to make in and of itself. For example, BuzzFeed published an article in which they criticize the film, the title calling it “Half-Baked.”

Another review criticizing the movie was published by Vulture, in which they call the movie ’emotional inauthentic,’ among other things.

Overall, the movie is pretty good. It does a good job of showing conflict in a way that can be comedic at times, and also works to criticize film criticism as a whole, which is something unique that I haven’t seen before. What makes the movie even more impressive is that it was made completely during the COVID-19 quarantine, written in less than a week, and filmed in total in about two weeks, back in the summer of last year.