The opening shot of “Malcolm & Marie,” the new Netflix film from Sam Levinson, is an ode to the classic black and white era.
A keenly framed static shot holds while old school credits appear on screen – the kind that show all the technical credits at the beginning of the film rather than the modern way of putting them at the end.
After about two minutes, headlights appear in the distance to break the stillness. Little did I know, this would be one of the only enjoyable scenes of the movie.
Cinematographer Marcell Rev squeezes everything he can out of the black and white. The lighting and shot composition are exquisite. To a trained cinematic eye, it was obvious he shot on real film and not digital. Trust that it makes it look that much better. Rev and Levinson (son of “Rain Man” director Barry) also stage long tracking shots and several, multi-minute takes to bring out the best in the two actors.
Yes, there are only two actors in the film. John David Washington, fresh off confusing audiences in “Tenet,” plays Malcolm. He is a self-obsessive, neurotic up-and-coming filmmaker who cannot take criticism; even compliments all seem backhanded to him. Zendaya, her Disney days long gone, plays Marie. She is angry just about all the time and constantly snipes at Malcolm. Her final speech to Malcolm, however, is the best part of the film. Both actors do a mostly spectacular job with a good script by Levinson.
Despite giving “Malcolm & Marie” so much praise, I still didn’t like this movie because the characters are despicable. There is nothing about either of them that made me want to care about their squabbles for 105 minutes.
It didn’t help that the entire film takes place in the same house; I felt trapped in there with them. Releasing this film while so many are still stuck inside during a pandemic was not good timing.
Anyone wishing to see some technical feats could do worse than watching a few minutes of this film. Do it with the sound off, though, because all the technical wizardry in the world couldn’t save this from being a disappointment. C-
Red Tier TV
“The Investigation.” A Danish import to HBO follows the investigation of the 2017 murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall. A fantastic look into how that country’s legal system functions, the film digs into the minutiae of every aspect of the case. It might be slow, but it’s never anything but fascinating.
“Big Sky.” A little ham-fisted at times, this ABC series has some very suspenseful moments and great character turns from John Carroll Lynch and Kylie Bunbury. There’s still time to catch up before part two returns in April.
“Snowfall.” After a two-year hiatus, this FX gem returns, picking up right where it left off. It’s a gritty look at the rise of crack cocaine in 1980s Los Angeles.
Jeff Mellinger is a screen writer and film buff. He holds a BA in Film Studies and an MFA in film production. He lives in Concord. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.