Early reviews of Sam Levinson’s forthcoming drama Malcolm & Marie are already skewing positive, garnering early comparisons to fellow Netflix original film Marriage Story and old Hollywood romances. There’s also been a good amount of discourse regarding the glaring age gap between stars John David Washington, who is 36 years old, and recent Emmy winner Zendaya, 24, since news of the quarantine-bred movie broke last summer. The discussion has only grown in volume since the official release of the glamorous trailer, prompting Variety’s Clayton Davis to broach the subject with Washington in a recent interview.
“I wasn’t concerned about it because she is a woman, Washington responded. “People are going to see in this film how much of a woman she is. She has far more experience than I do in the industry. I’ve only been in it for seven years. She’s been in it longer, so I’m learning from her.” He continues, “What I’m really excited for people to see when the film is released – they’re going to see how mature she is in this role. We’re talking about versatility, and Sam and Zendaya brought both.”
The film centers on a filmmaker and his girlfriend who arrive home from a successful red carpet premiere and soon begin digging into the complex layers of their relationship. Shot entirely in black and white (and with the help of a host of strict COVID protocols), the early peeks hint towards a rather intimate tale, sparking fresh critique of Hollywood’s penchant for casting woman under the age of 30 in roles that could easily be awarded to older actresses. Truthfully, this is a conversation that has been happening in various spheres for decades, but especially recently as actresses like Margot Robbie and Jennifer Lawrence are repeatedly paired with older actors. But as is the case with Robbie and Lawrence, many still recognize that Zendaya is a top-notch actress who could easily excel in just about any role she’s given. Furthermore, her casting likely had less do to with her age and more to do with the existing professional relationship between her and writer-director Levinson, who is the creator of HBO’s heightened drama Euphoria.
So while Washington is certainly correct—Zendaya is a grown woman with immense talent—their pairing still falls in line with a long-standing trend that largely favors men. Pointing said trend out and enjoying the film when it arrives to Netflix February 5 don’t have to be mutually exclusive.