Sort of a cross between Price and Prejudice and 10 Things I Hate About You, with a sprinkling of a chaste Bridgerton, Mr. Malcolm’s List is charmingly good fun
“What opinion do you hold on the Corn Laws?”
Based on Suzanne Allain’s novel of the same name and directed by Emma Holly Jones, Mr. Malcolm’s List proves to be a welcome addition to the summer viewing schedule – twinklingly light entertainment with a fine cast on top form. Set in Regency England, we’re in the aristocratic world of country houses and balls, bonnets and bows, love matches and scandalous whispers.
Zawe Ashton’s Julia Thistlewaite is the subject of the last, as her attempts to secure a husband – namely Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù’s wonderfully surly Jeremy Malcolm – crashed and burned at a disastrous date to the opera. Seeking revenge at being rejected by one of London’s most eligible bachelors because she did not match up to his titular 10-point list of requirements for the perfect match, she plots revenge.
This she does by inviting her best friend up from the country (Frieda Pinto’s Selina) to trick Malcolm into falling for her by fulfilling his conditions. But will she fall for him in the process? Will he ever find out the truth? Will Julia find happiness with the conveniently handsome Captain Ossory (Theo James) who has appeared on the scene? What do you think…?!
It’s not necessarily a film full of surprises but it is one full of pleasures. Ashton, Pinto and Dìrísù play with our expectations with real skill (suggesting they could play a brilliant Dangerous Liaisons together), Ashton’s energy in particular is delightfully subversive. And in giving the brilliant Doña Croll a proper, if brief, matriarchal role in the manner of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, you see the power and potential in increased opportunities.
Oliver Jackson-Cohen reveals some real comic chops, Ashley Park’s socialite is barrels of fun and there’s great work from Divian Ladwa and Sianad Gregory as servants passing wry commentary on what’s going on in front of them. Tony Miller’s cinematography maintains our interest around the luscious production design (Ray Ball) and dandyish costumes (Pam Downe) replete with feather trim and top hats for days. Huge fun.