Malcolm & Marie

Movie review by
Jennifer Green, Common Sense Media
Malcolm & Marie Movie Poster Image
Stellar performances in drama with sex, swearing, drugs.
  • R
  • 2021
  • 106 minutes

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 8 reviews

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Two adults can love each other and at the same time hurt each other purposefully and repeatedly. Filmmakers deserve creative freedom to tell stories and create art in whatever way they see fit, including adapting perspectives and relaying experiences beyond their own. Addiction can ruin people's lives, not just the addict, but also those around him or her. Overcoming addiction takes support, determination.

Positive Role Models

Malcolm has talent and ambition as a filmmaker, though he's struggled to find his place in a White industry and bristles at being pigeonholed as a political filmmaker or only capable of a male gaze just because he's Black and a man. Marie is a recovering addict who seems to have given up on her dreams of becoming an actress. She's wise and insightful about Malcolm's own posturing and how a profit-driven film industry works. Both are at times exceptionally cruel to each other.

Violence

Discussion of drug overdoses, death by suicide, and suicide attempts, including trying to slit one's wrists with nail scissors, and cheating on romantic partners. Malcolm and Marie scream at each other, purposefully and at times cruelly attempting to hurt each other's feelings and make each other doubt their own self-worth. They make fun of White people, feigning a White accent and expressing anger at White establishment culture, particularly in the film world.

Sex

Malcolm and Marie kiss and fondle each other, initiating sex several times. They each begin to perform oral sex on the other over clothing, and Malcolm kisses and bites Marie's bottom. Marie wears a sexy and revealing dress that is said to have elicited attention at the premiere. She takes her dress off to take a bath, and we see her from behind wearing only black nylons, and later in the bath. No private parts beyond her bottom are shown. Later she puts on a white undershirt that's nearly transparent and white underwear. Both go to the bathroom just out of frame. Discussion of "handjobs," "blowjobs," "f---ing," "d--ks," "c--k," "hookers and hoes," and "orgasms."

Language

Black characters use the "N" word. Repeated use of "f--k," "s--t," and "ass." Also "c--t," "damn," "goddamn," "hell," "p---y," "c--k-sucking," "hookers and hoes," "moron," "d--k," "pr--k," "balls."

Consumerism

Malcolm discusses the film critics at Variety, Indiewire, and the Los Angeles Times. Marie makes Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. They talk about E! News and Entertainment Tonight, and mention YouTube, Twitter, Citi Bike, Tylenol, and Marriott.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Malcolm prepares himself several alcoholic drinks at a fully stocked bar over the course of the night. Both characters smoke cigarettes. Setting and wardrobe make smoking and drinking look glamorous. They discuss Marie's and others' past drug addictions, overdoses, experiences in rehab and group therapy. He calls her a "pilled-out disaster," predicts she'll take a bunch of "Xannies." She talks about being on antidepressants. Malcolm says he found an ex-girlfriend "passed out with a needle in her arm" who later died after taking a whole bottle of Tylenol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Malcolm & Marie is for mature audiences only. The two characters argue with each other during the entire film, sometimes in emotionally cruel ways and using crude language. They also harshly criticize others, mostly White film critics and the profit-driven White film establishment. Malcolm drinks alcohol, and both characters smoke, making it look glamorous at times. They kiss and fondle each other, initiating sex several times. They each begin to perform oral sex on the other over their clothing, and Malcolm kisses and bites Marie's bottom. We see Marie from behind wearing only black nylons, in the bath (no privates are shown), and after the bath in a nearly transparent white undershirt and white underwear. There's discussion of past drug addictions, including a woman found passed out with a needle in her arm, overdoses, experiences in rehab, group therapy, suicides and suicide attempts, including trying to slit one's wrists with nail scissors, and cheating on romantic partners. The Black characters use the "N" word and there's repeated use of "f--k," "s--t," and "ass" throughout the movie. Language also includes "c--t," "damn," "goddamn," "hell," "p---y," "c--k-sucking," "hookers and hoes," "moron," "d--k," "pr--k," and "balls."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bySamuree February 16, 2021

21st Century Love Story

Malcolm and Marie review
Much has been said, mostly unfavorably, about Levinson’s new cinematic offering.
Critics lambasting the 8-minute monologue by Washingt... Continue reading
Adult Written byRayFella February 6, 2021

Good and very mature movie

Sex and alcohol drug use is very much expected in this movie but the biggest thing is the swearing and this movie has a ton of it almost every line the 2 charac... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byhelloo44 February 6, 2021

Moving but Mature Movie

I am going to start this with how amazing of a movie Malcom and Marie is. It touches on so many brilliant themes such as gratitude, toxic relationships, conflic... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byLoranikas303 July 14, 2021

What's the story?

MALCOLM & MARIE (played by John David Washington and Zendaya) have just returned home from the premiere of what promises to be Malcolm's breakthrough film as a director. He's on a high, riffing on the ridiculousness of the White critics fawning over him all night. She's tense and barely putting up with his boasting. She critiques his hypocrisy, and he draws out the real motivation for her anger: Malcolm forgot to thank her in his speech at the premiere. Over the course of several more arguments, Marie's complicated past is revealed to have been the inspiration for his film, yet she feels shut out of his creation on several levels. More revelations, arguments, and confessions over the course of the night are punctuated by moments of tenderness and apology. It's unclear whether the couple will make it through the night together, or whether they should even try.

Is it any good?

Even with two riveting performances at its core, this dialogue-centered film organized around an arguing couple over the course of one night will either speak to you or not. And that will depend entirely on how interesting you find the two characters, Malcolm and Marie, and their stories and concerns. Their sparring over the course of the film can feel tiresome, and there are moments of real emotional cruelty and name-calling that could turn some viewers off. Yet the script also deftly reveals new layers of information bit by bit, explaining the roots of their rage as well as the contours of their deep mutual devotion. Malcom and Marie are flawed, scarred, and selfish. They're also smart, driven, and in love. As closing lyrics suggest, they're toeing a thin line between love and hate; the tagline deadpans they're "madly in love." In a film stripped down to the core of just two people expressing emotional turmoil, Washington and Zendaya are mesmerizing.

The black-and-white cinematography is meant to convey elegance and sophistication, as is the modernist house, sexy black-tie attire, and stylish cool of the movie's score. It may also carry some symbolism. The Black Malcolm is deeply, at points comically, concerned with the mostly White film critics' reactions to his film. He knows he needs their approval, but he bristles at the guilt-driven, elitist, pedantic, "academic nonsense" they spout. As Marie likes to point out, he's a walking contradiction: He worships "revolutionary" Spike Lee but comes from a privileged, intellectual family. "Not everything I do is political because I'm Black," he shouts, but Marie points out he's working on an Angela Davis biopic. He explodes in a lengthy diatribe about artistic freedom, railing against the boxing-in of filmmakers and their perceived ability or legitimacy to tell stories according only to static identities -- White, Black, male, female, trans, gay, and so on. "Cinema doesn't need to have a message. It needs to have a heart and electricity," he vows. Malcom & Marie has all three.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Malcolm & Marie are so angry with each other and resentful. Have you ever loved someone deeply yet fought with them all the time?

  • What are some of Malcolm's critiques of film critics and the film industry? What did you think of these?

  • How does the setting, look, and sound of this film complement its story?

  • What do you think of the smoking and drinking here? Are there any consequences?

  • Does it surprise you or matter that the writer and director of this film is White?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate