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Malcolm & Marie
Directed bySam Levinson
Produced by
  • Kevin Turen
  • Ashley Levinson
  • Sam Levinson
Written bySam Levinson
Music byLabrinth
CinematographyMarcell Rév
Edited byJulio C. Perez IV
Distributed byNetflix
Release date
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$2.5 million[1]

Malcolm & Marie is a 2021 American black-and-whiteromantic drama film written, produced and directed by Sam Levinson. The film stars Zendaya and John David Washington (who both also produced), and follows a writer-director and his girlfriend, whose relationship is tested on the night of his latest film's premiere when revelations about themselves surface. The project was the first Hollywood feature to be entirely written, financed, and produced during the COVID-19 pandemic, with filming taking place in secret in June and July 2020.[2]Kid Cudi also serves as an executive producer on the film.

The cast of Malcolm in the Middle as of season 5, (from behind, left to right): Christopher Masterson as Francis, Frankie Muniz as Malcolm, Erik Per Sullivan as Dewey, and Justin Berfield as Reese. (In front, left to right) Jane Kaczmarek as Lois and Bryan Cranston as Hal. Malcolm & Marie is a 2021 American black-and-white romantic drama film written, produced and directed by Sam Levinson.The film stars Zendaya and John David Washington (who both also produced), and follows a writer-director and his girlfriend, whose relationship is tested on the night of his latest film's premiere when revelations about themselves surface.

Malcolm & Marie was released in a limited release on January 29, 2021, before being released digitally on February 5, 2021, by Netflix. The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised Zendaya and Washington's performances and Levinson's direction, but criticized his screenplay.


Writer-director Malcolm Elliott (John David Washington) returns home from his film premiere with his girlfriend Marie Jones (Zendaya). Malcolm eagerly anticipates the critical reviews following the emotional audience response from the screening. When he notices Marie looking displeased, he urges her to tell him what is bothering her. Initially reluctant to start a fight in the middle of the night, she tells him that she is upset that she wasn't thanked or acknowledged in his speech at the premiere.

Marie believes that she is the basis of his film, a drama about a struggling black female drug addict named Imani, as she herself was a drug addict when they met. Malcolm dismisses her accusations, claiming that the Imani is not based on her and is an amalgamation of different people. Marie insists that he would not have authentically portrayed Imani's struggles with drug abuse and addiction if they weren't together. Malcolm believes that Marie is overreacting, claiming that, because she quit acting years ago, she is jealous of the actress who played Imani and that she is projecting her personal problems on him and his film. Marie affirms her position on his lack of acknowledgment and calls his talents 'mediocre'. While Marie is taking a bath, Malcolm describes to her the different women he had relationships with, who inspired the character of Imani, stating that only Imani's feelings of hopelessness were based on Marie.

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Later, Malcolm finds and reads the first critic review posted about his film. Despite the review being positive, he rants about the white female critic's political interpretation of his film as he didn't intend it to be political. He laments that film critics are focusing too much on his black male identity and projecting politics into their interpretations, rather than judging him for his own merits. Marie playfully belittles his angry reaction to the positive review and his inability to take criticism, before the two appear to be bonding again following their arguments.

Before the two can begin to have sex, Marie provokes him when she asks why he didn't cast her as Imani, believing that she would have brought a vulnerability and authenticity to the character that could have made the film better. After they angrily accuse each other of being egotistical, Marie then brings out a knife and acts as if she is still a drug addict. She finally reveals she was acting out a scene as Imani to demonstrate authenticity, scaring but impressing Malcolm over how convincing she is. The two go to their bedroom and argue once more, until Marie lectures him about him taking her for granted and his lack of acknowledgement of how their genuine love for each other inspired the film.

Their arguing finally stops as they go to bed without saying anything to each other, only thanking each other before they sleep. Malcolm wakes up alone in bed in the morning daylight. He finds Marie alone outside and joins her as they look across the distance, leaving the fate of their relationship unknown.

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At the time, Sam Levinson and Zendaya were both involved in the HBO show Euphoria, which had stopped production due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the two discussed the possibility and idea of making a feature film project during the pandemic. Levinson pitched several projects to Zendaya, including a psychological thriller they would film at her home. He then began to come up with 'a relationship piece that plays out in real time.'[1]

John David Washington joined the project after Levinson read 10 pages of dialogue to Washington over the phone, saying 'I couldn’t believe it. It was beautiful words I heard, and at the same time very disturbing with visceral confrontations.'[3]

After receiving approval from the Writers Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America, the film began principal production from June 17 to July 2. Shooting took place entirely at the Caterpillar House, a private home in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. The film followed local COVID-19 safety protocols, including the entire cast and crew being quarantined during shooting, as well as two weeks before and after shooting, daily temperature checks, and increased sanitation measures.[4][2][5] The crew included many members of the Euphoria crew, including cinematographer Marcell Rév and production designer Michael Grasley. Both Washington and Zendaya were responsible for doing their own makeup and picking out their own costumes, as there were no makeup artists or costume designer on set. No more than 12 people were allowed on set at a time. The production also had to be kept very confined so that the cast and crew could remain undisturbed during shooting. The film was shot on black-and-white 35 mm film.[4]


In September 2020, Netflix acquired distribution rights to the film for $30 million, outbidding companies such as HBO, A24 and Searchlight Pictures.[4] It was released theatrically in select theaters on January 29, 2021, before being released on Netflix on February 5, 2021.[6][7]Deadline Hollywood reported the film 'made hardly any money' during its theatrical run (due to the COVID-19 Pandemic).[8] The film was the most-watched title on the platform in its debut weekend, but dropped out of the top 10 by its second.[9][10]


Critical response[edit]

According to review aggregatorRotten Tomatoes, 57% of 228 critic reviews were positive, with an average rating of 6.3/10. The website's critics consensus reads, 'Malcolm & Marie's ambitions aren't always satisfactorily fulfilled, but its flaws are often offset by the strong chemistry between the film's stars.'[11] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 53 out of 100, based on 42 critics, indicating 'mixed or average reviews'.[12]

Writing for Variety, Peter Debruge said 'Levinson gives his stars roughly equal time, carefully modulating the sense of balance throughout. His direction seldom seems showy, and yet, we sense the intention behind each cut as power and control shifts throughout the movie.'[13] David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a grade of C+ and wrote that 'Sam Levinson's exasperatingly gorgeous Malcolm & Marie is a lot like the two people who lend its title their names: confident and insecure in equal measure, stuffed to the gills with big ideas but convinced of nothing beyond its own frenzied existence, and reverent of Hollywood's past at the same time it's trying to stake a new claim for its future.'[7]Will Gompertz of BBC News awarded the film 2/5 stars, writing that 'John David Washington and Zendaya have been bickering for well over an hour when a moment of theatrical excellence (at 80 mins, to be precise) lights up an otherwise pedestrian drama about a couple having a domestic.'[14] Charles Bramesco of Little White Lies criticised the film for being an 'awkward, hideously overacted talkathon' scoring the film with a 1/5 rating.[15]

In a rather positive review, Mike Crowley of You'll Probably Agree called Malcolm & Marie a 'decent quarantine capsule', concluding that it's 'pretentious in all the right ways' and scored the film with a 3.5/4 rating.[16] Furthermore, although criticizing the film itself, Gompertz positively reviews 'the impressive acting chops of Washington and Zendaya'.[14] Bill Lowry of CNN Entertainment similarly praised their acting, writing 'pairing Zendaya and John David Washington, the movie -- quickly and stealthily shot during the pandemic -- wins points for ingenuity, then loses them with its shrill tone and the uneven hairpin turns of its writing'.[17]

In a response to criticism to the film, Sam Levinson said that some critics focused too much on Malcolm and his speech on film criticism and disregarded the importance of Marie's character and opposing viewpoint.[18] Nathalie Moreira of High on Films wrote 'Sam Levinson’s new feature deconstructs traditional romance stereotypes in favor of a modern love story filled with resentment, disorientation, and unresolved issues.'[19]


Black Reel AwardsApril 11, 2021Outstanding ActressZendayaPending[20]
Outstanding Breakthrough Performance - FemalePending
Outstanding CinematographyMarcell RévPending
Critics' Choice Movie AwardsMarch 7, 2021Best ActressZendayaNominated[21]
Hollywood Critics AssociationMarch 5, 2021Best ActressNominated[22]
Santa Barbara International Film FestivalFebruary 3, 2021Virtuosos AwardWon[23]

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  1. ^ abFleming Jr, Mike (January 8, 2021). 'Zendaya, John David Washington & Director Sam Levinson Enter Awards Fray Today With Pandemic-Shot Drama 'Malcolm & Marie''. Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on January 23, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  2. ^ abD'Alessandro, Anthony (July 8, 2020). 'How Zendaya, John David Washington & 'Euphoria' Creator Sam Levinson Started & Finished A Secret Movie During The Pandemic'. Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on February 5, 2021. Retrieved July 8, 2020.
  3. ^Davis, Clayton (January 12, 2021). 'John David Washington on Zendaya's Versatility and Why He 'Desperately Needed' to Make 'Malcolm & Marie''. Variety. Archived from the original on January 17, 2021. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  4. ^ abcFleming Jr, Mike (September 13, 2020). 'Netflix Closes $30 Million Deal For 'Malcolm & Marie' Off Promo; Sam Levinson Lockdown-Shot Drama Stars Zendaya & John David Washington: Toronto'. Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on September 13, 2020. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  5. ^Crichton, Maddie (July 9, 2020). 'Zendaya, John David Washington, and 'Euphoria' Creator Film Secret Movie During Coronavirus Pandemic'. Rogue Rocket. Archived from the original on July 10, 2020. Retrieved July 10, 2020.
  6. ^Feinberg, Scott (December 5, 2020). 'Netflix's 'Malcolm & Marie,' With Zendaya and John David Washington, Drops Into Oscar Race (Exclusive)'. Netflix Junkie. Archived from the original on December 5, 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  7. ^ abEhrlich, David (January 22, 2021). ''Malcolm & Marie' Review: John David Washington and Zendaya Find Beauty in a Bad Romance'. IndieWire. Archived from the original on January 22, 2021. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  8. ^D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 7, 2021). ''The Little Things' Super Bowl Weekend B.O. On Par With Liam Neeson Pics During Pandemic'. Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  9. ^Brueggemann, Tom (February 8, 2021). ''Malcolm & Marie' Soars at Netflix as 'Greenland' Continues to Score at a Premium VOD Price'. IndieWire. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  10. ^Brueggemann, Tom (February 15, 2021). ''Croods 2′ and 'Wonder Woman 1984' Show VOD Rebound as 'Barb and Star' Makes Strong Debut'. IndieWire. Retrieved February 15, 2021.
  11. ^'Malcolm & Marie (2021)'. Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on January 28, 2021. Retrieved March 11, 2021.
  12. ^'Malcolm & Marie Reviews'. Metacritic. Archived from the original on February 4, 2021. Retrieved February 7, 2021.
  13. ^Debruge, Peter (January 22, 2021). ''Malcolm & Marie' Review: Zendaya and 'Euphoria' Creator Reteam on Revealing Netflix Drama'. Variety. Archived from the original on January 22, 2021. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  14. ^ ab'Malcolm & Marie: Will Gompertz reviews film starring Zendaya & John David Washington ★★☆☆☆'. BBC News. February 13, 2021. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  15. ^Bramesco, Charles (January 22, 2021). 'Malcolm & Marie review – Awkward, hideously overacted talkathon'. Little White Lies. Archived from the original on January 24, 2021. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  16. ^Crowley, Mike (January 28, 2021). 'Malcolm & Marie - 'a decent quarantine capsule''. You'll Probably Agree. Archived from the original on February 14, 2021. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  17. ^Review by Brian Lowry. 'Review: 'Malcolm & Marie' is a showcase for its stars, and a headache for its viewers'. CNN. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  18. ^''Malcolm & Marie' filmmaker Sam Levinson wanted to start a conversation. Just not this one'. Los Angeles Times. February 11, 2021. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  19. ^Malcolm & Marie (2021) - A Bittersweet Realism of Love.
  20. ^N'Duka, Amanda. ''One Night in Miami', 'Judas and the Black Messiah' Lead Nominations For 21st Annual Black Reel Awards'. Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  21. ^'Nominations for the 26th Critics' Choice Awards'. Critics Choice Awards. February 8, 2021. Archived from the original on February 8, 2021. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  22. ^Menzel, Scott (February 2, 2021). 'The 4th Annual HCA Film Awards Nominations Have Been Announced'. Hollywood Critics Association. Archived from the original on February 3, 2021. Retrieved February 2, 2021.
  23. ^'RIZ AHMED, MARIA BAKALOVA, KINGSLEY BEN-ADIR, ANDRA DAY, SIDNEY FLANIGAN, VANESSA KIRBY, TAHAR RAHIM, AND ZENDAYA VIRTUOSOS AWARD PRESENTED BY UGG®'. Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Archived from the original on December 31, 2019. Retrieved February 2, 2021.

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External links[edit]

  • Malcolm & Marie at IMDb
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