kailey’s review published on Letterboxd:
unwatchable. unlistenable. gratingly obnoxious. hits the same spot as the monologues of your drunken, least favorite uncle ranting about his dashed college dreams at thanksgiving. everything that is smug and condescending and unbearable about a very specific brand of indie film-making that thinks it's cassavetes when really it shouldn't even pass an intro to screen writing course at an undergraduate level.
has sam levinson ever been in an argument before? does he know how other human beings talk? is he capable of actually parsing through artistic criticism and identity politics in any meaningful way that doesn't sound like the thesis of a particularly angsty sixteen year old? no. no! screams this film in tasteful black and white as zendaya and john david washington try desperately to burrow into any scrap of humanity they possibly can find.
watch as we learn nothing new about these characters that hasn't been elucidated perfectly fine in the first few minutes. revel in how the arguments circle back to the same three topics that sam levinson can possibly think of- how critics don't understand his (oh wait sorry malcolm's) genius, how malcom tramples over marie's feelings time and time again, and how marie can barely get a word in edge-wise before we're mouth-piecing about the unfairness of our most oppressed class- filmmakers again.
i personally could not care less about sam levinson's one-sided beef with a critic who didn't like his last movie, though god does this film convince me that she was probably 100% on the money. i do care that he expressed it in the most rancid, petty, irritating way he possibly can. (and let's not even talk about the clumsy, borderline tone-deaf way that he- a white-filmmaker- treats race and racism. let's not even go there.) i do care that there's not an iota of insight or empathy or anything interesting about the turgid whining of a man who just discovered that sometimes critics like to dissect films through the lens of social and political structures instead of just rolling over and assuming that every move a director can possibly make is that of an artiste genius.
it's just bad! it's just fucking bad! moving beyond sam's whining, the relationship stuff sucks too. heart and electricity are all that matters in a good movie- malcolm says, but there's no heart here. there's no sense that we're getting to know these characters because they're not characters. they're not fully formed human beings with life outside the camera screen, they're chances for "visionary director sam levinson" to show off how many big words he can cram into a speech. there's no flow or progression: they just careen from one topic to another, waiting for the other to stop talking while an artful tear rolls down their cheek. why are these people together? who fucking cares. end credits. it's done. zendaya looks great though. get her and washington a better damn movie please. stat.
(i suppose by writing this i run the very real danger of Sam Levinson seeing this and making his next movie about this review. screw it, sam. i'm waiting.)