The Conservative Critic
Malcolm and Marie: Was It Liberal Propaganda?
Welcome to the debut entertainment review column of Free Press Fail. The team at FPF is already here to level with you on all the news and politics of the world so we figured – why not help you pick a movie to watch on a Saturday since you can’t trust the liberal media critics as far as you can throw them (for the most part).
You all know me as FPF’s resident
monster MBA but little did you all know I actually studied film in college for a whole semester. Combined with the fact that even before the COVID-19 lockdowns I have spent most Fridays and Saturdays absorbed in movies and tv shows, obsessing over them like they are my real life human friends – I think we can fairly well consider me an ill-adjusted single woman over 30 expert.
The Conservative Critic will be measuring entertainment (films, tv-shows, mini series, literature, etc.) using three core questions:
Was it entertaining?
Did it have artistic and/or intellectual value?
And most importantly of all
Was it liberal propaganda?
So here it goes – the Conservative Critic debut review:
Malcolm and Marie
Overall score: Not good.
My first review is of the long anticipated and hotly discussed Netflix produced film, Malcolm and Marie starring Zendaya (Spider Man: Far From Home, The Greatest Showman) and John David Washington (Tenet, Ballers) and written and directed by Sam Levinson (Euphoria, The Wizard of Lies).
Was it Entertaining?
Rating: Extremely Dull.
There is no need for a spoiler warning on this review since there is not only not a plot but actually there is no attempt at a plot. The entire film follows a young couple as they argue over petty, ridiculous nonsense in a fancy house. There is no twist. We uncover no layers. It’s just two ego-maniacs yelling at each other and intermittently making-out. The best part of the whole movie is how delicious looking the macaroni and cheese (made in the first five minutes) looks even in black and white. The movie seems to be interminably long but actually manages to stay under 2-hours which would be a rare treat if not for how unnoticeable the restraint. You could watch the first thirty minutes and stop watching and still articulately describe the entirety of the film. The only thing I will give the absolute void of entertainment value is that I do not think the film’s writer/director was seeking to entertain. Mission accomplished.
Did it have artistic/intellectual value?
Rating: It tried too hard but it wasn’t total dreck
The entire film is set in black and white which is normally a red flag for me because typically I find blatant color gimmicks to be a trick to hide the fact that a film is pretty mediocre. While this film could use all the tricks in the bag, I actually thought the black and white treatment was for once done with a lot of care and attention for aesthetic. The sets featured a rich assortment of textures and patterns to bring life and interest to the backdrop of the story. In color, the sets would have had to be significantly more muted or else they’d create a sense of chaos or distract from the core values of the scene. The decision to utilize texture over color created a richness that character driven films of its kind often lack.
John David Washington and Zendaya both struggled to carry the clunky, overwritten dialog but in the quiet moments they both shined as the super stars they both are. There are these moments where Zendaya is left alone with her thoughts and she expresses this unadulterated hatred for herself and her partner in a way that a woman of her age should not know how to do. She is nuanced and beautiful as always – tragically only when she is not speaking. John David Washington does an ego trip better than the best of them and he even manages to make eating macaroni and cheese an act of self-indulgence. Tragically his laborious monologues do him no favors.
The soundtrack is cheeky and eclectic. It matches the intellectual richness of the set design. Its nothing to write home about but it does its job.
Which brings us to the writing and direction. The truth is that one man brought down this movie and that one man is the writer/director himself, Sam Levinson. An issue many artists face is the hubris that they do not need editing. What Levinson needed was for an executive (an unartistic everyman) to sit down, hold his hand, and tell him that his monologues are self-indulgent, cheesy and unbelievable not to mention repetitive and unoriginal. He should have been told that you cannot base even thirty minutes worth of material on a series of monologues and close ups. The characters did not so much as speak to each other as speak at nothing while the other person was also there.
The only fresh take Levinson had in the film was the notion that no one really cares about Hollywood’s politics and its inauthentic for actors to continue to try and be political and community leaders. Of course our kind has been saying this for years but they don’t really listen to us. This take, I believe, is why this film was panned as hard as it was by the liberal media outlets.
Further – yes, Zendaya is too young to play the opposite of Washington. No it is not racist that I think this because I also thought she was too young to play opposite Zac Effron and I have been consistently critical of Hollywood’s “ingenue” complex as this column will demonstrate. There was a sense of almost a predatory, “grooming” type relationship between the two which definitely was not intended and was quite distracting from the overall conflict. To be fair, I’m not sure Zendaya is actually too young (she is 24 and Washington is 36….so it is that), so much as she just reads young. One of the plot points (of few) in the story is that her character, Marie, is a recovered addict who recovered at age 20. But she speaks of this as if it was many years ago, not basically yesterday.
Ultimately, this film would have received a much higher artistic score if the entire concept, writing, direction and casting had been different. But the scenery was quite good and the acting was strong when it had room to breathe.
Was it liberal propaganda?
Rating: No attempts to brainwash detected
The character driven piece was refreshingly void of the typical liberal jabs at conservative ideas or conservatives themselves. The film stood on its own thoughts and even posited the notion that maybe just maybe Hollywood isn’t the right place for political thought leaders. There are also underlying messages celebrating the values of sobriety and hardwork. There is no risk of being sucked into the collective groupthink of the liberal elite.
Though I do agree with the critics on this occasion I still find their review to be highly hypocritical, politically motivated and maybe even a little racist. Just a year ago, critics lost their collective minds over the Netflix produced film, Marriage Story, and pasted a picture of Laura Dern to their locker room mirrors. Marriage Story had a bit more plot but basically was just two people (albeit white people) with a very similar relationship (romantically involved director and actress) yelling at each other. I thought it was bad and self-indulgent then and I think its bad and self-indulgent now. If a single critic had referenced the fact that the film was derivative, I might give them a break on their reviews. Instead they panned the film’s writing and concept which is fair because it was very bad but why didn’t they pan Marriage Story who had a very similar concept? Why was Laura Dern’s insufferably trite monologue celebrated as some tour-de-force but John David Washington is being called “unbelievable” and “unrelatable?” To be clear: they were both nauseatingly unbelievable and unrelatable but at least I’m consistent.
There is a small part of me that wants to give Levinson the credit that he’s being subversive and the entire point of the film is to be wholly inauthentic (because the characters express so much worry about authenticity) and if that is the case – actually kudos.
Regardless it is not worth the watch.
P.S. I rewrote an alternative ending that could have saved the entire movie which is that Marie is actually dead from an overdose or a suicide and Malcolm is drunk, talking to himself about the guilt and grief he feels celebrating his movie about her life when she isn’t there to enjoy the praise. Call me, Mr. Levinson, we could have ourselves a hit.