Malcolm and Marie:

A beautiful juxtaposition between chaos and love

By: N. James Dotson Jr.

A chaotic masterpiece filled with heartwarming moments to soul crushing confrontations that take you up and hurls you down on an emotional rollercoaster ride.

On a night that should have been one of celebration and levity the film takes several dramatic shifts throughout the journey of the two lovers, Malcolm and Marie. 

The opening scenes begin with a clearly agitated Maire (Zendaya) opposite a jovial Malcolm (John David Washington) who was in the midst of expressing his joy for the premiere of a movie he wrote and directed.

The unenthused Marie’s stern and short responses prompt her lover to question the source of her anger which spirals the two into a night of tension. Harsh words and realizations unearths a perplexing perception of each other, but, also themselves. The film does a masterful depiction of a couple’s quarrel with both throwing a barrage of verbal attacks that cut deep due to the connection two…then beautiful moments in between where the love shines through.

It fluctuates between two opposing emotions with no clear winner in sight, yet the take away from this should not be the fighting or even the make ups… it’s the realism of the war that is being in love, a true tug of war between two passionate people. The chaos beautifully woven through the intricately deep scenes of intimacy portrays what happens when couples fight.

The two play a night long game of emotional chess each trying to gain a victory cutting as deep as possible using knowledge of each other’s past to immediately regret it… all the makings of what could quite possibly be a real life situation.

It’s the dramatic jump from up to down being tempered by the grayscale cinematography that pulls the viewer in without being overloaded by the frantic shifts from big to small.

Zendaya’s portrayal of the 20 something recovering drug addict is hauntingly beautiful shifting from words sharp as swords to as delicate as early morning dew. The heart of a broken, jaded woman yearning so deeply for the ability to love a man as damaged as she is, picking at every insecurity her lover has shared. Her crass, ruthless demeanor adds salt to each cut she lashes out from bitter tone only to drift down into a soft falsetto. This plays perfectly against Washington’s quasi machismo and self confidence in the character while bringing to life the fragility of a man who is simply just trying. Washington’s ability to capture the raw confusion in not only his lover but in himself as well, switching the tempo in the emotion.

Throughout the story line there was a hint of political conversation whereas the two poke fun at white criticism of art expressing the black experience such as healthcare and black cinema. Greats like Spike Lee and the late John Singleton (mentioned in the film) tackled societal issues through an innovative way for their time which director Sam Levison does phenomenally. Washington delivers a powerful performance in scenes where Malcolm expresses his frustrations with a raw, emotional rant that quite honestly holds many truths. The authenticity in Malcolm’s rage in response to a mediocre review is something faced by many in the black experience where ignorance to the plight minorities go through in every aspect of their lives.

To deny the truths in the pair’s struggles alongside the larger perspective of black expression diminishes not only the art but also the strife in the black experience. 

All in all, while some see this as nothing “chaos” I see the story of people doing the action of love. The make up just to break up, the sharing of each other’s rage and adoration. 

It’s that juxtaposition of fury and passion that makes this a great story.

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