Is ‘Malcolm & Marie’ Based on a True Story?
Source: Netflix

'Malcolm & Marie' Is Somewhat Based in Reality, but Not in the Way You Expect

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Feb. 5 2021, Published 10:06 p.m. ET

The new Sam Levinson film, Malcolm & Marie, is finally debuting on Netflix. It’s basically a two-hour glimpse into a couple’s relationship, and from what we know about Euphoria creator Sam Levinson, we must know if it is based on a true story. Some of Sam’s other projects have drawn from his life when it comes to subjects like addiction, so why should Malcolm & Marie be any different?

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Malcolm & Marie was one of the first films to be completely written, produced, directed, filmed, and now released, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Euphoria was put on hold, and Sam Levinson needed inspiration. So while he drew on some aspects of his own life, which did make Malcolm & Marie partly based on a true story, he drew even more from his muse, Zendaya.

Is ‘Malcolm & Marie’ Based on a True Story?
Source: Netflix
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‘Malcolm & Marie’ is partly based on a true story.

Malcolm & Marie is based on a true moment in Sam Levinson’s life, but the story of the film is much greater. The central couple (portrayed by John David Washington and Zendaya) in the film return home from Malcolm’s movie premiere, during which he forgot to thank his girlfriend, Marie, while making a speech about the film.

Not only that, but Malcolm had actually based his movie on Marie’s life, which makes him leaving her out all the more cutting. This action prompts the greater story of Malcolm & Marie, diving deep into their relationship. 

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Is ‘Malcolm & Marie’ Based on a True Story?
Source: Netflix

Sam Levinson has admitted that the piece about leaving his girlfriend, now wife, Ashley Levinson, out of an acceptance speech is based on a true story. He told Deadline, “It may be true that I forgot to thank my wife once at a premiere — which ended up being the jumping-off point for this relationship piece that continues to unravel from there.” However, Malcolm’s inciting slip up isn’t the only true story that Malcolm & Marie could be based on.

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There are also many negative references to critics throughout the film, which some have called potentially “petty,” while others have called it “vindictive.” In one instance, Malcolm references “that white lady from the L.A. Times,” and the comparison to a negative review Sam received for his earlier film, Assassination Nation, by critic Katie Walsh of the L.A. Times, has not been lost on many reviewers.

Is ‘Malcolm & Marie’ Based on a True Story?
Source: Netflix
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The Ringer also points out that many aspects of Malcolm and Marie’s characters are definitely loosely based on Sam Levinson’s life. Marie has her own addiction story, which Sam has openly discussed as inspiration for Euphoria, and Malcolm is a filmmaker, just like Sam. Sam has also said that while the main events of Malcolm & Marie are not based on a true story, “the fights are based on the internal dialogues that he has with himself.”

The true story of ‘Malcolm & Marie’ is its inception.

One of the truer aspects of Malcolm & Marie is the way it came to be. Euphoria was put on hold due to the pandemic, so Sam needed a new project. He and Zendaya brainstormed together, but Zendaya was most drawn to Malcolm & Marie’s deep scrutinization of a relationship.

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Sam wrote the whole script in only six days. Then he, Zendaya, and John David Washington filmed in a house over the course of two weeks. The experience of a couple trapped in a house is not unlike what many couples today are going through. 

Is ‘Malcolm & Marie’ Based on a True Story?
Source: Netflix
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In that time, the actors dug deep to deliver emotional performances, reminiscent of A Marriage Story, and even more aptly, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. The latter, which was a cornerstone Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor piece, was a three hour film following a couple and their two guests in real time as they go at each other. So while Malcolm & Marie has hooks in fiction, its true story may be the reality of couples forced to take a deeper look into their relationships.

You can stream Malcolm & Marie on Netflix as of Feb. 5.

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