Mr. Malcolm's List

Mr. Malcolm's List

2022, PG, 115 min. Directed by Emma Holly Jones. Starring Zawe Ashton, Freida Pinto, Sope Dirisu, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ashley Park.

REVIEWED By Sarah Jane, Fri., July 1, 2022

Knowing nothing about the film going in, as Mr. Malcolm’s List continued, there was a moment when I thought, I bet this was based on a recent book. A book that was trying very hard to be like something Jane Austen might’ve written. As it turns out, the film was based on a 2009 Suzanne Allain book of the same name. I haven’t read the novel so I cannot attest to it worthiness, but try as it might, the film Mr. Malcolm’s List is rather like a very lesser cousin to anything written by Austen that’s been put on screen.

It’s 1818, and Julia Thistlewaite (Ashton) is all about the very eligible Mr. Jeremiah Malcolm (Dirisu). He’s the Catch of the Season and Julia, well, is not. She’s past her prime (?!) and everyone knows it. After one disastrous night at the opera, Julia is humiliated by a caricature that appears in print of her being jettisoned by Malcolm. She invites her childhood friend, Selina Dalton (Pinto), to London to try and put one over on him. Why is she so intent on getting back at Malcolm? Julia finds out via her cousin, Lord Cassidy (Jackson-Cohen) that Malcolm has a list. What kind of list? A list of qualities he wants in a potential bride. Julia, a bit dim, let’s be honest, failed one of the points by not being able to discuss politics. Selina and Malcolm are pushed together and, what’s this? They like each other despite Julia behind-the-scenes scheming? Yeah, that old saw.

Therein lies the problem. There’s just nothing new here. It’s just a pale replica of stories like Pride and Prejudice or any of a dozen of those early 19th century novels turned movies. Mr. Malcolm’s List most assuredly feels like it was made as a BritBox exclusive. I hold Autumn de Wilde’s 2020 version of Emma. to be a gold standard of modern Regency-era fare and Mr. Malcolm’s List is but a poor relation from Sussex version in comparison.

There are a few bright spots here: Despite the lack of chemistry between the two leads, the cast is great, and I especially enjoyed Jackson-Cohen, and Theo James as Captain Ossory. The costumes looked good, the locations were beautiful, and on some very fine writing paper, Mr. Malcolm’s List would seem to tick all the boxes. It’s fine, but it's low on Sarah Jane’s List.

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Mr. Malcolm's List, Emma Holly Jones, Zawe Ashton, Freida Pinto, Sope Dirisu, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ashley Park

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