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Director Sam Levinson Responds To 'Malcolm & Marie' Backlash

Source: Malcolm & Marie – Production Stills / DOMINIC MILLER/NETFLIX © 2021

Zendaya and John David Washington’s Netflix pandemic passion project Malcolm & Marie, written and directed by Sam Levinson, is finally here. Of course, there is already backlash being directed towards the film. Levinson is quickly addressing it.

From the minute the trailer hit Twitter timelines, it was already established that Malcolm & Marie was going to be a polarizing piece of art. One complaint was Zendaya (24) playing the much older John David Washington’s (36) love interest. Speaking with Entertainment Tonight Canada, Zendaya understood people’s issue with her casting, but, at the same time, let folks know she is a grown woman.

In a recent interview with Esquire UK, Levinson spoke about the film and addressed its criticisms following its release. While not touching on the issue with Zendaya’s age, Levinson spoke about the backlash the film is facing when it comes to John David Washington’s character Malcolm, who is a film director in the movie, and his ill-feelings towards movie critics and how they critique Black films by Black directors.

When asked if he thinks it’s going to be difficult for critics to review Malcolm & Marie becuase it is “critical of the critics,” Levinson shot that down, arguing that Zendaya’s character actually agreed with the critics in the film.

“I don’t know why because Marie agrees with the critic, and that’s why I don’t necessarily know why it would be hard to review in that sense. I’m not sure everyone sees it that way, but it’s an absurdist scene at its core. I always go back to the idea that Marie agrees with the critic! I think it’s quite evident that Marie is the gravitational pull of the entire piece and that she is what holds everything together, whether or not she was getting the credit for it.”

On the subject of Malcolm calling out white critics for always seeing Black films by Black directors being only about race, Levinson admits that it does happen in the industry.

“It’s kind of evident in film criticism and history. Do the Right Thing was originally received by certain New York critics at the time as a call to violence, and that Spike Lee didn’t make just a bad film but an irresponsible film, and it shouldn’t be released. You look back and think, ‘Who was right?’. There is this tendency amongst the establishment, and I mean white establishment critics, to categorise things and talk about them in a way that can sometimes speak to their own importance. [Films are] so ‘important’ that suddenly nobody wants to see [them] because it feels like homework.”

Levinson also added that he did not feel any anxiety expressing that critique becuase he is a white filmmaker stating, “I didn’t have anxiety in that sense because I have too much respect for the collaborative nature of filmmaking.”

Levinson also touched on the film’s “claustrophobic” feeling being that it takes place entirely in Zendaya’s real-life home, the movie’s ending, and working with Zendaya. Speaking with Cassius Life, Levinson spoke about his working relationship with the actress being that they also collaborate on the exceptional HBO original show EuphoriaHe gushed about Zendaya’s work ethic stating “that she loves a challenge.”

“The thing that I love about Z is she loves a challenge,” Levinson told Cassius Life. “I asked myself, what have I not seen her do? Because I also know from working with Z for about a year and a half that there is nothing she can’t do and that if you underestimate her, she is going to prove you wrong. I know she’s got a high standard, and I was just trying to write to the standard.”

Of course, reactions to the film are pouring in, and the consensus is Zendaya, and John David Washington was ACTING, ACTING in the movie. See what viewers are saying about Malcolm & Marie in the gallery below.

Photo: Malcolm & Marie – Production Stills / DOMINIC MILLER/NETFLIX © 2021


No lies detected here.


Lol, this is very accurate.


Zendaya was acting, ACTING.




We felt this tweet.


LOL, oh well.


Nope, they damn sure didn’t.




Disney Zendaya is gone!




She damn sure did.