How Netflix’s ‘Malcolm & Marie’ Actually Gets Relationship Fights Right
John David Washington and Zendaya reflect on the do’s and absolute don’ts of arguing with your lover, both on- and off-screen
The Covid-19 lockdown might have ended some Hollywood productions, but it gave rise to others — and we have Zendaya to thank for one of the first. While so many of us were baking bread and watching comfort-food television, the actress hit up Sam Levinson, the creator of her Emmy-winning series Euphoria. “I knew I wasn’t leaving the house,” she says. “I also knew I had to work.”
The result, Malcolm & Marie, co-starring John David Washington and shot at the famed Caterpillar House in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, over the course of two weeks last summer, isn’t just one of Netflix’s most thought-provoking movies in a long time. It’s also a remarkably real-feeling portrayal of how couples handle conflict.
Viewers meet the couple returning home one night after a screening of filmmaker Malcolm’s (Washington) latest project. He’s raucous and triumphant; his girlfriend, Marie (Zendaya), just wants to cook him boxed mac and cheese and go to bed. She’s obviously pissed. When he finally gets her to reveal the source of her anger, they’re off to the races, trading barbs, low-blow revelations, profanities, and intermittent affection. The movie is, essentially, a 90-minute lover’s spat between two people who are both awful and perfect for one another. Whether it’s a portrait of love or dysfunction — or both — is your call to make.
You won’t know where you stand until the end credits roll, and even then you may feel unresolved. Equal parts uncomfortable, intriguing, and infuriating, Zendaya and Washington’s performances don’t allow you to take a breath or move your eyes away for a single beat. Before Malcolm & Marie hits the streaming…