Zendaya’s Malcolm and Marie is a romantic story with an important message

Emily Benson-Tyler, Staff Writer

Malcolm and Marie, a film by popular director Sam Levinson, made its debut on Netflix on Feb. 5.  The film stars Zendaya and John David Washington as the two protagonists.  Zendaya also worked as a co-producer on the film.  Because of Sam Levinson’s massive success with Euphoria, also starring Zendaya, the film has attracted lots of buzz.  

The black and white film, centered around a filmmaker and his girlfriend as they navigate the difficulties of a relationship, all takes place within a single evening.  The film’s lack of color is purposeful.  

“Well, you know, other than the fact that it’s just pretty, it’s beautiful, it adds timelessness to it, but also… there was a thought also about reclaiming the narrative of black and white Hollywood and Black actors really having their moment at that time,” said lead actress Zendaya in an interview with Good Morning America.  

The color scheme isn’t the only aspect of the movie that tackled race; conversations between the characters addresses what life is like for African Americans in the entertainment industry.  While the main purpose of the film isn’t to explore race, it is a significant topic addressed in the movie.

“I enjoyed the film’s open conversations about race and found it very relevant to the issue of systemic racism in today’s society,” said junior Sadie Mandel.

The romantic drama comes after the critical and fan success of Euphoria’s two special episodes, where Zendaya plays a teen battling drug addiction.  In Malcolm and Marie, Zendaya, who is 24, plays the first adult role of her career, having been rocketed to stardom by Disney Channel in shows like Shake it Up and K.C. Undercover.  Online critics used to seeing her in teenage roles questioned her ability to play the love interest of John David Washington, 36.  

“I’ve played a 16-year-old since I was 16.  You have to remember, also, people grew up with me as a child.  It’s like watching, I guess, your younger sibling now, you know, they’re grown…  So it’s hard for people to wrap around the idea that I am grown in real life.  You know, even though I do play a teenager on television still,” said Zendaya in an interview with E! News.

While the age gap was a minor issue, public response to the movie as a whole has been mostly mixed.  Many were impressed by Levinson’s cinematography and the acting performances by Zendaya and Washington, but felt that the movie fell short in the screenwriting.  

“I thought that the dynamic between Malcolm and Marie was fascinating and the visuals of the movie were incredible.  However, I did feel the stress of the characters at times emphasized by the long monologues and singular setting, so it was definitely a heavy movie,” said junior Leah Schachter.  

The film, which only included the two actors, was conceived and shot entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic.  This required the cast and crew to make special adjustments to their filming style.  Despite these limitations, Sam Levinson, John David Washington, Zendaya, and the crew all managed to successfully complete this thought-provoking film.