Why The Negative Response To Sam Levinson & Zendaya's Pandemic Film 'Malcolm & Marie' Is Completely Unjust

Photo: Netflix
Zendaya and John David Washington in 'Malcolm & Marie'

At times, films can seem to follow a certain formula.

Although they usually work and get people in the cinema, it can feel a bit dry and too familiar. This is why Netflix’s newest release, Malcolm & Marie, is the perfect movie to be released in these times and far from deserving hate.

The film follows Malcolm and Marie, played by Zendaya and John David Washington respectively, as they come home from his movie premiere and are pushed towards a "romantic reckoning" as they argue and quarrel.

Many people are critiquing the movie for it being filmed during a pandemic, and others say that it gives off the feeling of claustrophobia, as the film takes place in one location with little wardrobe change.

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The small group of "haters" that harp on this film for being written, produced, and filmed during a pandemic don’t know the behind the scenes and what really went into this film being made. 

This film is the very definition of "safe" when it comes to making a film in today's climate. The setting of the movie was one house. One single house. 

According to a tweet from Zendaya, there were a total of about 22 people on the crew and it was filmed in only two weeks. Especially when being compared to other films that are in production right now, this movie took it to an extreme in regards to being safe while producing a film.

“We found this ranch in Carmel that had all of these separate units that people could individually quarantine in without coming into contact with one another, and so for the first ten days that’s what we did before we started shooting while getting tested,” Sam Levinson said, writer and director for the film.

According to Levinson, a lot of the work that would usually require other people on set was done by himself, and the work was divided among the crew members.

He said that Zendaya was the one doing her own hair and makeup. Now that’s cost-efficient and more importantly, it’s COVID safe.

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The media and fans alike were saying that this movie gives off a feeling of "claustrophobia" and some restrictions. 

This was Levinson’s intention all along, though.

According to Levinson, the idea for the film would not even have come to him if it were not for the restrictions that COVID placed on people across the world. 

“So it’s two people, one location, no place to go, not a ton of costume changes. I think it is unique to the restrictions of the world we were living in at that time,” Levinson said.

This idea that there were restrictions and limitations to producing this film ties back into the idea that this movie deviates from the typical movie formulas.

“There was no script supervisor, no first AD, no real props department, Z was doing her own hair and make-up and there was no schedule,” Levinson said.

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The filmmaking process is usually a tricky process, as many scenes are shot out of order, to save as much money and time as possible.

This film was an exception and for the better.

The movie gives a feeling, through the arguments of Malcolm and Marie, that there is a sort of threat or force that will disrupt their bubble at any time. This was made possible through shooting consecutively.

“It's one of the reasons we decided to shoot it in order so that we were building the tension and then could let the air out a little bit,” Levinson said. “That there could be a moment that was tender and could provide a little sense of relief, and then suddenly it turns back.”

Films that are produced and released today in black-and-white are usually a hit-or-miss and this one is a big hit by all means.

This film defines art in isolation and is backed by stellar acting and storytelling.

Who knows, maybe this becomes a formula for movies in the future.

And yes, it’s that good.

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Tomás Diniz Santos is a writer living in Orlando, Florida. He covers news, entertainment, and pop-culture topics.