Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

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Never Cursed
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Re: The Films of 2020

#1 Post by Never Cursed » Wed Jul 08, 2020 7:34 pm


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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Films of 2020

#2 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jul 08, 2020 7:54 pm

Nice, I didn't love Euphoria like you did, which I felt crumbled under itself by the halfway mark, but he showed a lot of potential when focusing on certain ideas and characterizations. I'd like to see him continue to tackle struggles with addiction like Ponsoldt did for a bit, given his own candid experience, which was by far the best part of the show in my eyes.

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Re: The Films of 2020

#3 Post by Never Cursed » Sun Sep 13, 2020 7:26 pm

On the strength of a promo reel, this has been acquired by Netflix to the tune of $30 million after a bidding war involving most of the large distributors at Toronto.
Deadline wrote:Washington plays a filmmaker who returns home with his girlfriend (Zendaya) following a celebratory movie premiere as he awaits what’s sure to be imminent critical and financial success. The evening suddenly takes a turn as revelations about their relationships begin to surface, testing the strength of their love.

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Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#4 Post by Never Cursed » Thu Nov 19, 2020 1:59 am

Never Cursed wrote:
Sun Sep 13, 2020 7:26 pm
Malcolm and Marie
Will be released February 5, 2021 (does that make this the wrong thread?), just before this season's Oscar deadline. Supposedly, Zendaya is incredible in the film and will receive a big push for Actress (though Netflix is running, like, five separate Actress contenders this year)

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Re: Trailers for Upcoming Films

#5 Post by Never Cursed » Fri Jan 08, 2021 2:08 pm


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Re: Trailers for Upcoming Films

#6 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Jan 08, 2021 6:16 pm

Never Cursed wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 2:08 pm
Malcolm and Marie
Unsurprisingly, this looks terrific. Maybe Levinson has discovered the best way to actualize his strengths is crafting theatric twofers soaked in his raw vivifying style? After Trouble Don't Last Always, I'm so game for more of that authentic passion in a new form.

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#7 Post by domino harvey » Sun Jan 10, 2021 1:53 pm

Never Cursed wrote:
Thu Nov 19, 2020 1:59 am
Supposedly, Zendaya is incredible in the film and will receive a big push for Actress
Sure enough, I'm seeing Zendaya zoom up the list of Oscar predix for Best Actress for this film, though she's still out of the aggregate top five for now. I'm sure the surprise Emmy win helps her visibility as well

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#8 Post by Never Cursed » Fri Jan 22, 2021 11:57 am

Reviews for this are quite mixed, with universal praise for the actors but several reviewers being extremely put off by a scene described as a scathing attack on film twitter (oh no) and certain critics (with the LA Times, which gave a poor notice to Assassination Nation in real life, apparently being the subject of some of this criticism and subsequently giving a brutal review to this)

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#9 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Jan 22, 2021 12:55 pm

Depending on how Levinson executes these criticisms, this info only makes me want to see it more

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#10 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jan 22, 2021 8:02 pm

This film may or may not be garbage but the sheer volume of online film critics getting their feelings hurt and declaring vengeance on the film is embarrassing

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#11 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Jan 22, 2021 8:09 pm

I'm finding it interesting to read some of these articles because the criticisms look past what I think Levinson is often trying to do with his work, after first acknowledging this as a possibility, then disregarding it and opting for a cheap reading. It's ironic when Chang mentions solipsism as a line in the film, questions if he's going to engage that way based on his emotional reaction, offers up some very decent readings of the insult in the context of the film (whether they're right or not I don't know, but the messy ambiguity touched on seems totally right within Levinson's wheelhouse), and then chooses to be solipsistic as he tosses away all decent peripheral criticisms in favor of ego-bruised vengeance.

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#12 Post by Never Cursed » Fri Jan 22, 2021 9:00 pm

I was gonna say, I was under the impression from these reviews (for I have not seen the film) that the stuff about critics and Film Twitter was placed in the mouth of a character whose words we are not meant to take as gospel, that Levinson had taken an experience that he had and teased out some more conflicted and ultimately self-critical stuff by putting his emotional reaction under a microscope. That strikes me as being a hell of a lot more interesting than all the hot takes about Levinson merely hating critics (or worse, Levinson being racist for daring to put his words in the mouth of a non-white actor - actual take I have seen).

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#13 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jan 22, 2021 9:03 pm

Never Cursed wrote:
Fri Jan 22, 2021 9:00 pm
(or worse, Levinson being racist for daring to put his words in the mouth of a non-white actor - actual take I have seen).
Ha, I saw that forum argument too after logging in for the first time in prob a year. Insert Grandpa Simpson GIF here

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#14 Post by senseabove » Fri Jan 22, 2021 9:11 pm

If I'm not mistaken, that particular critic also got riled up a few weeks ago because of the absolutely scandalous 11-year age difference between Washington and Zendaya. In a film about a Hollywood couple, a milieu famous for age appropriate relationships.

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#15 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Feb 06, 2021 2:42 am

After seeing this and reading Justin Chang's review again, it seems that he's confining himself in step with a lot of shallow criticisms aimed at Euphoria and Assassination Nation that I reject but speaks to Levinson's messy worldview of grey soup with ingredients comprised of contradictions, expressed through intensely polarized, loud apexes. I think Chang, and most people, miss the point of what Levinson is doing, getting caught in the net of the surface-level self-indulgences and blind to the rest of the complex reactions just as prevalent. It isn't that Levinson is being unidimensionally self-critical/pitying, so much as he’s simultaneously taking his own inventory and validating those characteristics, philosophies, behaviors, emotions, and impulsive thoughts without shaming or endorsing them. His ability- hell, willingness- to take a middle ground against the grain of these extremist modes of expression and insight is a confounding and chaotic process, and one that feels at-odds with the external logic most people expect when assessing a sociological chamber drama. The accusations of solipsism can be true because who isn’t solipsistic to some degree, but the lobber of specific insults such as these usually has experience, and feels shame about, this trait in themselves before projecting it on another. Levinson is familiar with this hostility, for these are internal parts in his own mind just as they are externalized characters who probably each mirror parts Levinson has played in arguments, real and imagined.

The film begins with fragmented distancing camera shots positioned outside the house peering in, and throughout the narrative course, traveling across seemingly every crevice of the house, the camera will invite us to become intensely claustrophobic in our confrontations with these characters. This film is many things compacted into a fun stylish twofer that touches on relationships, artistry, and individualism, amongst other topics. This couple begins the night stating that they don't want to fight, but they are compelled to fighting anyways. Some of us will recognize the need for couples, with so many ego functions yielded in a too-comfortable zone, to project and solve and insert their wills into the moment regardless of the predictable consequences. And of course human beings are unpredictable, and that’s the nature of this film- exploring and exploiting the ways in which we explore and feel exploited by others; to be imperfect and narcissistic as a fault but also by nature.

Levinson knows that some of us take our loved ones for granted, allow our worst behaviors to come out around those we feel the strongest intimacy with, and that relationships can be contractual without us realizing it. In a sense this is like if a young Martha and George from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? cut right to the bone in their games, pulverizing the other with direct assaults on their character (or, in one of the film’s subtlest scenes- not that there are many- a character more indirectly but no less violently engages in passive aggression by putting on a song that titularly and lyrically sting in a drawn-out silent battle of chicken, her leg tapping manically as she feeds off his impotence to halt a painfully introspective reflection with this art). It's a film of high highs and low lows, ego fragility and strength asserted, resentment and self-gratification pouring out. It's both a realistic depiction of a relationship full of pent-up conflict exploding, and an allegory for the multiple parts of his psyche as an introverted feud of shame and protection. The film spends time validating that sometimes it is "all about me", that there is an internal logic to the fact that "hurt people hurt people", and that struggles over power dynamics and control are as essential in relationships as they are detrimental to them.

I liked Washington in BlackKklansman but wasn't convinced of any versatility of talent after that film, and certainly not after Tenet simply used his softness to sell a compassionate humanist Bond. This film really cements that range of skills though, especially across two killer monologues of completely opposite tones. I loved the politicized review scene, which aside from a commentary on the sociological zeitgeist and Levinson's own misjudged skewerings, is a didactic push for focusing away from analysis and onto emotion, and also just-plain hilarious. It’s a great scene about “the mystery of art” where we are asked to look at Levinson as an artist who is both fairly diagnosed as making personal art about addiction, and allow him space to be curious about Gen Z without oversimplified Whys that lead to unfair accusations. Much will (has..) been written about how race is used here by a white filmmaker, but race could easily be transplanted for the universality of experience. Malcolm’s early line about the film being misconstrued as about race when it’s about a “young drug addicted girl” must in part be a nod to Zendaya’s Euphoria role, and how if that part was viewed through the lens of race rather than addiction it would erase that identification with segregation. After all, that’s Levinson’s experiences projected onto Zendaya. It's also quite obviously self-reflexive: the film begins with black characters arguing about how a piece of art doesn't need to be devolved into a racial issue by critics. Levinson cast black actors in a theatre-film about universal concepts, which critics have ironically fed into the critique by criticizing Levinson for this move, making this film about race. He clearly foresaw this and is making a statement within the film through its structure to begin with.. it's a rather ingenious move.

This is also not entirely about Levinson, though pieces of it certainly are- it's a story about people foreign to him, that he persists to relate to by asking challenging rhetorical questions that will ruffle feathers of those in the industry and those uncomfortable with a man of privilege doing the asking. As we say in the IFS therapy field, if all strong thoughts and feelings we have are different parts of us, they're all welcome, even if they are contradictory and convoluted- and he certainly unapologetically unloads them here, baring his soul to therapeutically work through himself and accept himself at once. Levinson's only code is related to honesty, curiosity, and growth, and he has the audacity to go wherever he needs to do to exercise those muscles. It's how he stays sober- spiritually speaking.

As far as art goes, to look at Washington’s filmmaker's jabs at reviews that affect his self esteem at face value is to discredit Levinson’s entire ethos uncharitably, reducing his courage at recognizing a damaged egotistical area of his psychology to mere delusional whining. The point is that Levinson acknowledges that part of him whines and still chooses to expose himself in all his complexity beyond and including that trait. That’s far more admirable and brave than not mentioning critics’ magazines by name or drawing real-life comparisons would be, because it would be a half-measure of his tenth step- the admission of a daily inventory of shortcomings. I’m convinced that these shitposting critics are either saints-in-disguise or unable to peel back the onion layers of their own character defects, and I lean toward the latter. But that’s the beauty of being in recovery and watching someone in recovery make art like this- Levinson speaks my language, owns his shit, and dares to allow his tendencies for humility and humiliation- selfishness and destructiveness- to all drain out; parsing out what is honesty and what is delusion, and how they coexist inside of one another like a Russian doll. I don’t expect people to see what I see, but I admire Levinson for continuing to print his 12-step work onto the page and screen. The ink has an esoteric edge to it, but this is catnip for me.

There is some truth shining through the prism here in the reveals of Malcolm and Marie's shared past and their motives within this contractual relationship, as well as the final speech (if there's any justice in the world, Zendaya will win an Oscar for this): Lack of curiosity is a problem that stunts self-betterment. Complacency is the enemy. Gratitude is the key. The path to honesty is painful, violent, but ultimately necessary to become sober to problems, take perspective, and have a shot at change. We all just want to be seen and heard, and we need to extend that outward and see and hear the ones we love if we're to be worthy of what we want ourselves.

Is that partly selfish too, a nonverbal bargain to console in order to be consoled ourselves? Are our relationships and demonstrations of love sourced in expectations, and if so what is "authentic" love? Did Washington take on the caretaker role to feed his ego, as well as due to selfless affection? When we fail to receive the reciprocal expectations we concoct in our minds, how does this brew resentment, and how can we communicate what we need to alleviate this anger and get support from our partner when can't even access the depths of our own needs? These are only some of many important questions to keep asking long after the credits roll. These questions matter, but only for the purpose of increasing consciousness to channel growth, not to get answers that will ‘solve’ our contradictions or propel us forward in any linear pattern of development. This won't be the last fight this couple will have, though it also won’t be the last serene, silent stare-off into the sunrise either. And it's okay to be selfish, just as it’s inherent to the limitations of our scopes to have difficulty communicating our perspective and processing another’s against our own. The sooner we accept that we have narcissistic proclivities the better off everyone we love will be, because in the dissolve of ignorance we can retreat into solipsistic offensiveness a little less, and love and empathize a little more.

If nothing else, this film is a great reminder to thank the people we care about for all the infinite grace that is in our lives because of them. Or, you know, one could attack the film aggressively and miss the message completely, but what a way to rob yourself of its gifts. Then again, that narrow-minded reactiveness sourced in ego fragility would be in step with the film’s presentation as well, emulated by these characters’ (re)actions when they’re not at their best, but something tell me that - like Malcolm and Marie and you and me when we’re emotional- these detractors are unaware of what’s really driving those criticisms. I feel sorry for their loss, because I’ve been there, and will certainly be again.

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#16 Post by The Narrator Returns » Sat Feb 13, 2021 6:14 am

I'll preface this by saying that I'm glad therewillbeblus found truth in this, and I've enjoyed their writing on Euphoria (which I have not watched). I personally did not find truth in this, instead a regurgitated mass of much better influences (Woolf is the most obvious of them, Stardust Memories is another, maybe Alex Ross Perry too or maybe they're just both working from similar references) anchored by two stick-figure people screaming Levinson's unifying theories of media at the top of their lungs. I don't even think the performances are very good, they both huff and puff like they're trying to blow their beach house down but it never comes off like they're doing more than acting exercises, they cry and they scream and they laugh and I never feel like I'm watching actual human behavior. The best I can say for it is that there were moments of (intentional) comedy that genuinely made me laugh out loud, particularly a bit about the LA Times's paywall leading into John David Washington's screaming session about identity politics in film criticism. And if that spiel is intended to be a joke at Malcolm's expense, Levinson is truly a dynamite comedy writer wasting his time on a bad, stagey chamber drama.

Also, and this is admittedly extremely petty, John David Washington eats mac and cheese like he was unfamiliar with mac and cheese's existence until they started rolling.

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#17 Post by Never Cursed » Mon Feb 22, 2021 4:22 pm

Interview with Zendaya in the New York Times wherein she responds to some of the charges levied against this film and Levinson. Interesting to note that she and JDW are co-owners of the film with Levinson (a fact that I hope does a little to push back against the narrative of Levinson as a domineering figure supposedly imposing messages upon his collaborators)
Last edited by Never Cursed on Mon Feb 22, 2021 4:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#18 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Feb 22, 2021 4:26 pm

or a "racist"

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#19 Post by domino harvey » Mon Feb 22, 2021 4:30 pm

Zendaya wrote: What’s interesting is I think a little bit of our agency was stripped away.
Bingo. So much alleged well meaning concern online inevitably infantilizes the alleged “mouthpieces” as either victims or rubes (though now they’re probably going to go with “complicit”, right)

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#20 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Feb 22, 2021 5:47 pm

Terrific interview, that solidifies a lot of what I got out of the film. I especially liked this part:
Zendaya wrote:There isn’t a specific message. It’s more of a piece to open up a dialogue. You’re the fly on the wall. You’re watching the codependency, the narcissism, the ups and downs of something that has a lot of toxicity in it. It’s triggering for different people in different ways because they find themselves connected to different parts of the characters. If there’s anything to take away from it, it’s this idea of gratitude [for] people in our lives who make it possible to do what we do. For any young person going through any kind of relationship and something like toxicity or whatever the case may be, I think a huge thing is understanding your worth.
Also, I love Zendaya's brevity with which she explains that her collaborations with Sam Levinson, specifically explaining her experiences of being black to him, translated into the script- but per domino's point, the idea of placing the authorship on him as this villain completely discounts the pretty well-known fact that Levinson and Zendaya are close collaborators... it's all so ironic, that arguably the most aggressive artist working today to expose the flaws in cancel culture's inherent blindness winds up being canceled by people exercising those violent yet naive criticisms, when the evidence that they're false doesn't require invasive psychological profiling but simple tabloid clicking to reveal deeper truths. Her simplified explanation is also incredibly ironic to the response, because she proposes that Levinson actually listens to her experience and empathizes from a place of open-minded curiosity, while all these critics just want to skewer to their close-minded diagnostics without offering the same ear. So yeah, he listened to and helped communicate a marginalized experience from someone he intimately respects and got ravaged for it. It's an assassination nation alright.

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Re: Malcolm & Marie (Sam Levinson, 2021)

#21 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Feb 23, 2021 1:35 pm

It’s incredibly heartening to see articles popping up from other media outlets with the pull quotes about Zendaya feeling her agency was robbed in the title- this is surely the best way to counter these unfair lobs, and I'm curious how many critics will publicly backpedal after a being called a spade by a person of color

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