We’re in a Regency of Regency films, and I’m here for it. I got early access to Mr. Malcolm’s List from Bleecker Street Films, and here’s my review, delivered in list form. Because why not?
First, a quick introduction to what the movie is about! Julia Thistlewaite is made a subject of public mockery after failing to impress handsome, rich, Mr. Malcolm. She invites her childhood friend, Selina Dalton to join her in London to help with a plan to give Malcolm a taste of his own medicine. With the help of her cousin, Lord Cassidy, and the appearance of other wonderful characters, we see Selina and Malcolm set on a course for love and minor disaster.
- If you’re a fan of Jane Austen, you will love many aspects of the movie. From the fun that is poked not only at courting rituals of the Regency, but at the rich and their follies. Also…
- Mr. Malcolm is a refreshing version of Mr. Darcy you will probably fall instantly in love with. We see him through the eyes of Julia (who considers him a snob for his list) and then through the eyes of Selina and Cassie (who aren’t coming to Malcolm for money or social standing, but rather his company and conversation).
- The romance is delicious. There is a lot to be said about the careful pacing of the romance in this film, but I think the notes I took during my watch say it all: SEXY CROQUET SCENE SEXY CROQUET SCENE. GHOST HAS NOTHING ON THIS.
- The comedy is delightful. What starts as a story of revenge, turns into this fun ride of characters, only made more divine by the outstanding acting by the ensemble. Selina Dalton, played by Freida Pinto, is almost a foil to her childhood friend Julia Thistlewaite, played by Zawe Ashton, but their careful acting never takes that relationship into full competition, rather remaining in a playful and complicated space. Ashton is masterful at timing, whether it be a glance or a change in volume or intonation, her Julia is so vivid and uniquely real.
- The costumes are a feast for the eyes. Like opening a box of bonbons, you get a little of everything. And while there is space for character stories, I will say that this won’t be opulent as EMMA. (2020), if folks are using that as their new standard for Regency costuming details.
- The attention to historical details. From corn laws to Billingsgate fishwives, folks who are self-proclaimed history nerds will be ecstatic to have so many references packed into the dialogue.
- The cast. I’ve already said a little about this, but THIS CAST. Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù is perfection as Mr. Malcolm, vacillating between the rather uptight, proud type, to the much more relaxed and at ease man Selina sees and loves. There is a complexity to him that immediately signals to the audience that this is not going to be the snob Julia sees, but a man trying to walk a very tenuous line of expectations and heart. I will also say that this is by far Theo James’ best work I have seen so far.
- There’s complicated relationships that are rooted in love. From Julia and Selina’s long friendship, despite each being of very different temperament, to Selina’s own parents, who show their daughter support and compassion when she needs it most.
- The servants might be the best part of the movie. I’m probably biased because I watched this twice through and had more time to catch their witty remarks, but seriously, these two have some of the best lines in the whole movie, and including them in this way adds a layer of self-awareness to the film, if not the genre of period drama, that is sorely needed.
- This movie has no room for namby-pambys. Seriously though, it takes major inspiration from Austen and Regency romance, pulling multiple tropes and themes into a visually stunning film with a smart, quick script. There is energy even in the more silent moments, and a reservation even in the most frenzied ones.
I’ll be sharing more blog on Mr. Malcolm’s List. Including a more detailed costume analysis, info on corn laws and more.
Catch Mr. Malcolm’s List in theaters July 1!
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