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Netflix’s ‘Malcolm & Marie’ lands like a pay-per-view cage fight

The thin line between love and hate is purely conceptual in Sam Levinson’s “Malcolm and Marie.”

In the Academy Award–winning 1966 film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a troubled married couple invites a pair of virtual strangers to their house after a party. The couple then proceed to verbally tear each other apart in front of their guests, casting themselves as the dysfunctional stars of an abusive tableau that terrifies and embarrasses the invitees. In Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the audience is watching the story of the couple and the people upon whom they’ve chosen to inflict their issues, but in Sam Levinson’s new Netflix film Malcolm & Marie, the audience takes on the role of the guests — random people who’ve stumbled upon the shitshow relationship of the century and can’t quite find a polite way to escape the situation.

Malcolm & Marie stars John David Washington and Zendaya as the titular characters. Malcolm is an up-and-coming filmmaker whose recent project premiered a few hours before the events of this movie and Marie is his visibly younger girlfriend. When the pair return from the premiere to their stunning short term rental in Malibu, Malcolm’s euphoria over positive audience reactions to his film gives way to an hour and 45 minute blowout that seems twice that length and lasts for nearly the entire movie.

Tendai Guvamombe