A Valentine's Day double feature

A note for the reader: please read this in a dry, monotone, depressed voice in your head or out loud. That’s the mood I was in when I wrote this.

Valentine’s Day is one of the worst times of the year, and like the masochist I am, I like to make myself feel worse by watching bad romantic movies. It’s all the fantasies you can never even fathom having, but terrible. Anyway, I watched two of these trash heap movies to really double my pain this weekend. At this point, I am just trying to weaken my heart at an exponential rate.

Malcolm and Marie

There’s a line in this movie where Zendaya’s character says, “Do you think that the movie would be as good as it is if we weren’t together?” to John David Washington’s character. Upon having watched this twice to determine if this was good or not, I think that was just Zendaya genuinely asking that question to her co-star.

This movie is bizarre. I have seen comparisons of this movie to Marriage Story, but I think that’s a disservice to Marriage Story and a disservice to the actors because they’re not in a movie as good as Marriage Story. The dialogue is just unbearable. The only things that kept my eyes glued to the screen were Zendaya and John David Washington’s magnetic performances and the admittedly beautiful cinematography and editing. There is clearly a good visual direction and I was expecting more from writer/director Sam Levinson given how good Euphoria is. Upon watching this, it’s very apparent that he has a great visual eye but that he just can’t write or work alone.

The best way to describe this script is that it’s a bad knockoff of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? That play, similar to this movie, also has a story about two characters in their house arguing for the entire duration of the play, which ultimately reveals how horrible their relationship is. At least the play the movie is ripping off has a story, an arc with personable characters, and good dialogue. Honestly, Malcolm and Marie was not too bad in the beginning. But the further the movie goes along, it just looks like Sam Levinson gave up writing. It’s like he told a bot to look in a dictionary and automatically generate sentences that are supposed to sound genuine but are actually just pretentious art student garbage.

The conflict in this story literally does not matter. What makes Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Marriage Story so good is that the small petty arguments that characters have about random things have stakes involved. These stakes are derived from larger and deeper conflicts, such as the characters getting divorced, that are influencing those small petty ones. That is what emphasizes the depth to which the relationships in those stories were flawed.

Unfortunately, the conflict here is barely developed. Frankly, I don’t even remember it. I guess it’s something vague about John David Washington forgetting to thank Zendaya in his award speech, so she gets mad that he doesn’t respect her, which is then supposed to develop into this really deep thing about toxic relationships. Except the whole story forgot to do the developing part and the deep part. Real people don’t argue as these characters do in this movie. It comes off so pathetic because the whole time, I did not give a single unit of care for what they were arguing about, and everything they said to each other was so repetitive and one-note.

On top of that, we also never really see either character do anything that makes us actually believe they love each other or question why the relationship is so toxic. To make another comparison, both Marriage Story and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? show the characters doing things out of their love for each other. Both stories also show the awful things they do that are rooted in their hatred for each other and how that hatred comes from a painful place of former love. I suppose this movie couldn’t do that due to the filming constraints during the pandemic. But in that case, write a movie around those constraints instead of writing whatever this was.

Despite all this, I can’t say I hated the movie. I found that if I turned off the volume and imagined my own dialogue and story to supplement the visuals, it’s a good movie. Sam Levinson should not write. He should be behind the camera where he belongs, telling the people what to do. This movie reminds me of Harry’s Quidditch game in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Lockhart accidentally removes his bones. Sure, Harry’s still got the arm, but it’s absolutely useless without the bones.

Not Cool

I think I found it y’all. I found the worst movie ever made.

I am honestly in shock with this. I suppose it makes sense this is super bad considering this is a YouTube movie directed by and starring Shane Dawson, who is also one of the worst kinds of people. But, my god, this is somehow awful even by his standards. For those who don’t know, Shane Dawson is an awful YouTuber whose career was built around shocking and offensive content, such as saying racial slurs and inappropriate comments about pedophilia. He was also extremely toxic to everyone on the set of this movie and every other thing he’s worked on. Naturally, his career was canceled due to that, and he absolutely deserves it.

It is without a shadow of a doubt that Not Cool is the most insulting thing I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe that the movie is nearly seven years old, and, despite Shane Dawson’s career dying, YouTube still expects us to pay money for this crap (don’t worry, I didn’t pay for it).

Unlike the film masterpiece Love on a Leash, which has a gripping story with a lot of character action, this movie has none, so it feels like you’re being waterboarded with incessant screaming for 10 hours. I think 70 percent of the dialogue is delivered with just a bunch of screaming. It’s like a bad YouTube sketch forced into a feature-length movie, which makes sense because it’s Shane Dawson.

It is every cliché of the high school romantic comedy wrapped into a directionless package where no one does anything, and every single character is just the worst human ever. I criticized Malcolm and Marie for not having good characters, but at least half the characters in Not Cool should be imprisoned. I say this as someone who is a prison abolitionist. It’s also weird how everyone in this movie is obsessed with how attractive Shane Dawson looks even though he looks exactly like the kind of guy who kicks puppies and says racial slurs for fun. Which, again, makes sense because it’s Shane Dawson.

For this next bit, I would like to offer a trigger warning for the poor readers reading this because I am about to discuss just how grossly offensive this movie is regarding every possible topic you can think of. It’s, unfortunately, a necessity to do this because it’s the biggest reason why this movie is as terrible as it is. I would also like to remind the reader here that the main ensemble of this movie is supposed to consist of high school students. It’s easy to forget that since all of the actors are clearly in their mid-20s. If you don’t want to read this part, please skip the next four paragraphs.

One of my favorite shows is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which has a notoriously dark and pretty messed up sense of humor. Yet it generally skirts the line and makes it funny because the jokes provide commentary and generally don’t punch down. There’s a joke in the first episode where one of the guys, Charlie, doesn’t understand that he isn’t supposed to say the N-word out loud in any context, which he accidentally says in public when trying to prove to his friends and to the waitress he likes that he isn’t racist. His friends react appropriately to Charlie’s gaffe, but what’s funny is that both of his friends are also unaware of how racist they are. The joke is very extreme and admittedly isn’t the best of the jokes in the show. But it is also entirely at the expense of the idiotic main characters, and there are plenty of other very messed up jokes like that that are much funnier. This movie is trying to be a high school romantic comedy combined with elements of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s type of humor, but it’s honestly just the worst thing ever.

There’s a joke that a Black, homeless man is eating his own poop out of a cup in the lobby of a high school. There’s nothing else to it. That’s the joke. In fact, there are three jokes about this “character.” There is a joke about an Indian guy who harasses everyone at a party but then gets panicked when a classmate throws out his grandmother’s ashes. There’s an extended joke about how the “crazy aunt” is a schizophrenic whose voices in her head are telling her to kill her family. There’s also an extended joke where the mother of Shane Dawson’s romantic interest wants to hook up with Shane Dawson’s high school-aged character. Before that part, there is also a joke where this same mother is sucking the fingers of her older daughter’s fiancé right in front of her, but the older daughter doesn’t notice because she’s a “dumb blonde.” I don’t understand why this movie thinks that predatory behavior towards children is funny.

It’s even worse when the characters in the movie do abhorrent things, but those actions are treated as comedic moments or as dramatic moments meant to develop the romantic arcs. The characters in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are all awful people, but the joke is that they’re unaware of how horrible they are and how it ultimately comes back to bite them. For example, in the episode “D.E.N.N.I.S System,” Dennis describes to the gang how he emotionally manipulates women to get laid, which impresses the other guys and horrifies his sister Dee. So for the rest of the episode, the rest of the guys try to copy Dennis’s emotionally manipulative system which culminates in all of them miserably failing in their romantic pursuits. They absolutely deserved to fail due to how horrible they all are and it’s hilarious. In the subsequent episodes, we see them continue to fail at being functioning human beings and continue to destroy everyone around them and themselves.

In this movie, it’s the complete opposite. There’s an entire sequence where one of the really creepy main characters spills a drink on his romantic interest and is cleaning her up, but the joke is that he is inappropriately touching and harassing her. It’s not funny, and it’s deeply disturbing. But that’s the kicking off point of their romantic arc. There’s another egregious scene that stuck out that’s so bad that I won’t fully describe it. The summary of it is that Shane Dawson’s character is assaulted at a party by his ex-girlfriend and his romantic interest walks in on it and thinks the two are hooking up. That entire sequence is a punchline about sexual assault but yet it also is meant to serve as the emotional low point for the two characters. It is extremely tonally inconsistent and doesn’t work, obviously. Nothing about this movie works, at all.

The movie is also set in Pittsburgh, or at least there are some scenes with bad green screen backdrops of Pittsburgh, so that’s the final nail in the coffin for this. Don’t watch this. This movie made me angry, and as awful as Valentine’s Day is, it’s certainly not this awful. That’s it for the reviews.

Unhappy Valentine’s Day to you all. Love is fake.

P.S: Also, don’t watch To All The Boys: Always and Forever because that’s a terrible movie as well. If you do want to watch a good movie, watch Judas and the Black Messiah. It’s on HBO Max and it’s awesome.