Let’s jump right in with why so many critics are calling this film an enormous flop. It has come to a common consensus that Malcolm & Marie is a shallow replication of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. If comparing the two, then yes, Malcolm & Marie is a pale replication of its predecessor. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf had more complexity in the plot, more mystery with the characters, and even more depth throughout the storyline. Malcolm & Marie throws in new conditions, new generations, and switches around the entire plot in order to center a black couple who criticizes the sole thing that they are involved with. Inadvertently it causes the question to rise: Which film is most authentic? Yes, the arguments get repetitive, but in the end they all lead back to one objective: a visual representation of a modern day power struggle.
Keeping in mind, both films are centered around a dysfunctional and abusive relationship, Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) and George (Richard Burton) in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf brought people into their drama. While that made for a great plot at the time, it isn’t something that is likely to happen in the 21st century–especially in the black community, no matter how wealthy one becomes. Second, Martha and George’s relationship was depicted as something normal that they do. Whether George is there because he truly love’s Martha or because he is simply “too numb to care anymore” it is clear that they have some sort of arrangement between them. Malcolm and Marie have no such thing.
Zendaya gives a phenomenal performance as Marie. Should we expect anything less from the Euphoria star? She played a women who has heard the same thing time and time again, living the same “empty” life day after day, and played the same supporting girlfriend role over and over again. Nothing Malcolm (John David Washington) said surprised her. As soon as Malcolm said his first words in the film Marie opened the door and went outside to light a cigarette, already annoyed. She does this throughout the film every time Malcolm says or does something inconsiderate of her feelings. Others said her performance was bland and non-authentic, but I disagree. A smart women knows that silence is power, especially when dealing with a narcissist like Malcolm.
As a filmmaker and his girlfriend return home from his movie premiere, smoldering tensions and painful revelations push them toward a romantic reckoning.
John David Washington