This is not a film review.
A film review is where the critic experiences the whole work and then gives his or her personal analysis of the merits.
This is not a film review because I couldn't finish this movie.
About 10-20 minutes in, I gave up.
So if you think that I am being unfair to the movie, I understand. But, remember, this is not a film review.
This is an explanation of why I couldn't finish this film and review it.
The movie begins with black and white cinematography. My experience has been that a modern film that chooses black and white either does so because
a. the budget is low and black and white will hide some imperfections
b. the filmmaker has the skill to use this technique to create some amazing visuals
c. the focus of the movie is to be on the actors' performances more than their looks.
It looks like director Sam Levinson chose c and d.
The movie begins with our title characters Malcolm (John David Washington) and Marie (Zendaya) returning from the premiere of a movie he directed. The first thing that Levinson shows you is Marie walking into the bathroom in her glamorous dress, where she hikes it up and sits on the toilet to take a dump with the door open. I suppose this is Levinson's way of telling us that this movie is going to be a raw exploration of intimate romantic relationships. But all I could think of was "yuck."
To be fair, there are some clever shots as the two begin to talk. There is a nice long shot where the camera either follows a manic Malcolm or lingers on a depressed Marie in a single shot. However, this becomes boring after a while as you realize that the entire film is going to be about the tension of their relationship.
What is the problem?
After the movie, Malcolm didn't thank Marie, especially since he based his movie's main character on her.
And then we strap in for a 2 hour fight. As my wife observed, "It sounds like the director is working out his own relationship issues on the screen." While art can be cathartic, its purpose should not be the director's own personal form of therapy, but to entertain and enlighten the audience. And this movie did neither.
Washington and Zendaya are very good, so I understand why using black and white would be used to highlight their performances. Washington has been excellent in films like BlacKkKlansman and Tenet, and I have been impressed with Zendaya in films like The Greatest Showman and the MCU Spider-Man movies. But here, all they are given is a script about two Hollywood elites screaming at each other about their lack of emotional validation.
Once I realized this, I decided not to waste my time finishing it.
Perhaps the movie gets better. I won't know. Despite the performances, what I saw bored me to tears.
What makes this frustrating is that there is a nugget of a good movie buried here. There is a scene where Malcolm is recounting how a reporter was telling him he was going to be the next Spike Lee or the next John Singleton. He recounts asking the reporter, "What about William Wyler?" There is an interesting story that could be explored about how our culture places artists into certain boxes and how they have to break free from them. Or there could be an interesting story exploring the ups and downs of how fame and success batter and buffet a relationship over time. But instead we are getting a bottle-episode version. It would be like taking the fight Kaye and Michael have in The Godfather Part II and expanding it from six minutes to 2 hours.
And who wants to watch that?
Watch at your own risk.