Reminder: These are my thoughts and my take on the movie.
There is a sweetness to this movie that makes me sick.
I have been in a relationship where I have tried to be a support to a man that seemed to think my presence was only an extension of himself or not needed for the gains he wished to make. I have been Marie. More than once.
When I saw her hit that cold butter with the Chef’s knife to make him macaroni and cheese–that he asked her for? I knew what it was. And I almost started crying. I have been a Marie.
Is this a ‘struggle love’ movie? No, I don’t think that it is. It is a movie that is long overdue to be told from the honest pen of Black writers. The movie displays exactly what it looks like to try to be with someone who may not know what that means; conversely what it means to try to stay with someone that doesn’t think you will ever leave.
The dialogue is honest, the emotions are raw, and several times I wanted to slap fire from Malcolm! There were several times I wanted to snatch Marie and tell her to shut up! There were times in the movie where I thought they both went too far–where I thought for the ‘good’ of the relationship Marie should hush! Yet, in examining that—isn’t that the same feeling that makes struggle love possible? This idea that one has to be lesser than the other for the sake of peace.
She doesn’t let Malcolm get away with talking to her in a way that makes her shrink.
He doesn’t allow Marie to talk to him any kind of way either, but he believes he knows her well enough to talk to her like he does. It is this knowingness that Marie calls narcissism. I’m not sure if it is, but it definitely arrogance.
They go at each other, and circle the idea of reconciling but then they remember why each of them is mad, and that someone that they love hurt them that badly, and they come out swinging at each other again.
And what is the beginning of this argument about: Malcolm didn’t thank her. He sees that as an excited oversight, but Marie sees it as one on top of another set or slings and arrows! But in an attempt to remind Marie that she is loved, he brings up what he did. Even supporting her through addiction and suicide attempts. The bathtub scene was hardest to watch because you could tell Malcolm’s intent was to truly ‘snap her like a twig.’ He belittles her, humiliates her, and Marie forces herself not to cry. And later in the movie Malcolm tells her how in love with he is, and even tells her this as the movie opens. The one thing I will continuously give Malcolm credit for was being in-tune enough with her know she was not alright.
He tells her how talented she is, but also calls her on her inability to do something else–like go back to acting. In calling her on her own insecurities, he exposes her to what she hadn’t done–and he won’t let her weasel out of that. Which causes Marie to be upset moreso! She wants him to see her, and see all of her. I mean, they even fight about how she didn’t/wasn’t cast in his movie IMANI. Malcolm tells her that he wasn’t going to beg her to audition–even though he said with the right part she would be outstanding!
Marie also won’t give into having sex with him–she doesn’t want to give him the comfort of her body. She wants him to hear her, rather than feel her. Which I thought was pivotal–that goes into the power dynamic of a relationship! Sex is often transactional, and used to diffuse certain situations. It doesn’t really solve them. Is it manipulative? No. If I’m mad, then why should I give you the comfort of my body!
They are truly a mess. But they love each other. Yet, its not struggle love. Marie doesn’t shrink, she refuses to be steamrolled or bullied. Marie tells Malcolm that he steamrolls over everyone because he cannot conceive that someone else is more interesting than him. She tells him as the movie ends:
“Your lack of curiosity is an extension of your narcissism. You never stop to ask, ‘How can I be a better partner?’ ” Marie then says, “I am the last one standing, who is not scared to tell you to ‘up your fucking game’.
As complex and layered as this story is, I am still stewing on it. Even as the movie ends, there is no clear cut happy ending. We don’t know if Malcolm really sees her. We don’t know if Marie has enough in her to forgive him to do better. We are given the scene of them outside, from the vantage point of the bedroom window, and see them together. We are given the illusion of hope. Nothing else.
And that is what all relationships have behind doors, isn’t it? Hope. We hope that we can pull it together. We hope our partners can do better. We hope they see us, and we don’t want Marie’s words to haunt us:
“I feel like once you know someone is there for you, and once you know they love you, you never really think of them again. It’s not until you’re about to lose someone that you finally pay attention.”
After Marie tells him why thanking her was imperative, Malcolm seems to understand! It’s not an oversight–it was him ignoring her for his own gain and ends. Even if he did it on accident. Marie desires to be seen and heard, and demands the man who loves her to do both! Malcolm is a good guy, but he has to understand that relationships are effort. Marie has to understand that you cannot put your life inside of a man–you need to be brave enough to exist without him, or his approval.
Malcolm & Marie will make you think. It’ll make you cry. It’ll make you laugh and remind you that love is a choice. Staying together is a choice. And leaving is also a choice. They stayed together to try again. Isn’t that what love does–give hope? And the hope to be seen? I believe so, even in a place with all windows.