Arrived at the theater this afternoon wanting to avoid the crowds for the Minion movie and I didn’t want to see something I already watched, which left me with Mr. Malcolm’s List, a film based on a book of the same title by Suzanne Allain. I knew little about it, not even that it starred Freida Pinto.
The plot is simple, if not a little predictable, in this film set in Austen era England. Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton) has her ego wounded when Mr. Malcolm (Sope Dirisu) decides that he is not interested in pursuing her after an outing to the opera. When she finds out from her cousin, Cassidy (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) that Malcolm has a strict list that he goes by when finding a bride, Julia enlists Cassidy and her friend Selina (Pinto) to help her get some revenge on Malcolm by making Selina available with a fake list of her own. The will use this list to humble Malcolm when he courts Selina.
All goes according to plan until Selina and Mr. Malcolm start falling for each other. Julia forges ahead stubbornly even as she everyone around her has stepped away from the plan and she finds her own love in Malcolm’s friend Henry (Theo James). While the plot unfolds, there are subtle looks and comments from the servants, though these are more of asides and lack any real substance set against the rest of the movie.
This film is Bridgerton without the sex and, aside from the masquerade ball, is lacking in the spectacular costume department. There is much tension between Selina and Malcolm, a genuine chemistry, but the film falls just shy of any real Austen-esque narratives. Don’t get me wrong – this film is certainly watchable and entertaining if you enjoy the Downton Abbey’s of the world.
Where this film really falls short is with the servants. It obviously thought it was doing some Downton Abbey juxtaposition here, but the servants are mere comic relief whilst the main characters go on with their days obliviously. I would have liked to see more of the servants. To see what they were like behind the scenes and not just as a sideways glance here or there.
Mr. Malcolm’s List did not move me to tears like Cyrano or Sense and Sensibility, but did carry me through the film without feeling boredom. It accomplishes the task of diverting my attentions for a couple hours while Theo James and Freido Pinto look pretty on screen (Pinto essentially carries the film). And isn’t that what films like this are made for?
I give it two and a half stars out of four. Passable if you don’t put much thought into it.