From the moment the much-hyped romantic drama Malcolm & Marie hit Netflix, pretty much all viewers could talk about was Zendaya’s performance in it. Notably, with the film’s Feb. 5 release coinciding perfectly with the 2021 awards season, there’s a chance the Emmy winner could score her first Oscar nomination very soon. At least, that’s what fans are expecting to see, according to all the tweets about Zendaya in Malcolm & Marie (especially that knife scene).
Euphoria creator Sam Levinson’s black-and-white movie got plenty of attention when it was announced in July 2020 as one of the first big titles exclusively made during the coronavirus pandemic. John David Washington and Zendaya play its titular couple, a filmmaker and his girlfriend who come home from his latest movie premiere with plans of enjoying a romantic evening together. However, it soon turns into a night full of mac and cheese, steamy moments, and heated arguments about love, trauma, and filmmaking (casual night-in stuff).
Warning: Spoilers for Malcom & Marie follow. There was major tension between Malcolm and Marie throughout the entire film, brought on because he forgot to thank her after making a movie heavily based on her experiences with substance use disorder and self-harm as a young woman. It also came out that Marie, an actor, wanted to be cast as the lead in Malcolm’s film, arguing that her real-life experiences would have brought an authenticity to the role that would’ve made the film better.
Both Zendaya and Washington gave impressive performances throughout the film, but the standout moment came about three-quarters of the way in, when Marie came at Malcolm brandishing a knife. (The moment was bound to happen; a close-up of the knife at the beginning of the film, when Marie was making Malcolm’s mac and cheese, basically screamed "Chekhov’s gun!")
In the scene, Marie tearfully admitted she’s not on antidepressants anymore and wasn’t coping well, adding “I’ve never been clean. And I don’t plan on getting clean.” Marie reflected on her worst moments in their relationship, such as cheating on Malcolm and stealing from his mother. She finished by begging Malcolm to tell her where her pills are, arguing she deserves punishment.
But just as audiences couldn’t hold their breath any longer, Marie’s demeanor totally changed and she revealed it was all a performance based on their earlier argument. "That, Malcolm, is what authenticity buys you," she told him, walking away angrily.
Zenday’s ability to play a character who was also playing a character — not to mention her intensity in doing so — left fans shook.
For many, this knife scene alone was confirmation the 24-year-old should get major awards love.
Viewers will have to wait and see what happens during awards season, but one thing is for sure: Zendaya continues to earn her reputation as one of Hollywood’s most exciting young stars.
Malcolm & Marie is now streaming on Netflix.
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