Review by Sean Boelman
Serving the same crowd that has made Downton Abbey and Bridgerton such successes, Mr. Malcolm’s List is another charming new period romance. And while it may be predictable in every way, an exceptional cast and a buoyant script allow this to be a worthy entry into a genre that apparently still has plenty to offer.
The film follows a young woman who courts a wealthy suitor as part of an elaborate ruse designed by her friend who was rejected by him. It’s pretty much the same as any high-society melodrama set in 19th century England that you can think of, but if you’re a fan of that type of story, it’s certainly very charming.
Yet even despite its predictability, the light nature of the script keeps things moving along very nicely. The target audience for this movie has probably seen and read dozens of stories like this, so they will be fully aware of where this story is going to end, but the intrigue lies in the relationship dynamics at the center of the film.
It is amazing how fully fleshed-out all of the characters in this movie are. Their personalities all fall into the common archetypes of the genre, and yet still feel attached to the characters. It’s a tried-and-true approach — the rags-to-riches story of someone finding love with another person who is more wealthy but needs to find the beauty in something beyond high society.
The cast here is all-around excellent. Freida Pinto is a very charismatic lead and brings a lot of wit and charm to the role. Sopé Dìrísù is an appealingly staunch love interest. And the supporting cast is rounded out nicely with funny supporting turns from Zawe Ashton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and Theo James.
These types of films (and the novels upon which they are based) are well-known for being progressive in terms of their feminism, but the color-blind casting of this movie is a welcome delight. Many of these adaptations are overwhelmingly white, and it is nice to see one that features people of color in the leading roles.
Emma Holly Jones’s direction is also very accomplished. She previously directed a short film adaptation of the same source material, meaning that she is obviously very passionate about the story. And it’s a very formal period piece with solid costuming and production design to replicate the Regency era.
Mr. Malcolm’s List is exactly what you would expect — a charming, funny Regency melodrama. If that is your cup of tea, this movie will not disappoint as long as you don’t go in wanting something out of the ordinary.
Mr. Malcolm’s List hits theaters on July 1.