Mr. Malcolm’s List (2022)

Quick Synopsis: Julia (Zawe Ashton) gets rejected by Mr. Malcolm (Sope Dirisu) and finds out he judges his potential suitors on if they match up to a list he has of the qualities his ideal wife would have. She gets revenge on him by getting her friend Selina (Freida Pinto) to pretend to be the perfect woman for him.

I’m not usually a fan of period dramas. The stakes are normally too unimportant for me to really give a shit. They’re usually just a group of privileged people in fancy houses, worrying because war has broken out and that has the potential to ruin their dinner party.

This is better than most purely because the characters actually acknowledge that they’re spoiled and that their problems are ones that most people won’t bother with. Also, a lot of the characters aren’t white. It’s a small detail that was caused by colour-blind casting. I won’t say it makes the film a lot better, but it does make it stand out. There’s some controversy over the casting, but only from racist assholes, so not from actual people. From people who know good performances when they see them the casting is appreciated. Zawe Ashton has been getting a lot of the attention from critics, and I can see why as she is good. But I feel Freida Pinto is the real star. Sope Dirisu plays the title character perfectly and deserves to be mentioned. A lot of his character work is done off-screen, it’s descriptions from other people about him. So he has to match those descriptions when we do see him, he’s been bigger up so much by people that if he doesn’t live up to expectations in terms of performance, if he doesn’t have that “it” factor, then the film will fall apart, audiences would automatically zone out.

This is the directorial debut feature from Emma Holly Jones, because if you’re making your first film, make it a period comedy, and film it during COVID, just to make it as difficult for yourself as possible. She has previously directed a short film version of this, so it makes sense that she’d do a good job here, especially since she has carried most of the cast over. She gives the film a really good look. It doesn’t look too extravagant, but there is definitely a rich elegance to the whole thing. The characters definitely have wealth, but they don’t look like they’re at the level of rich where it’s almost parody.

The story? It’s standard. It’s a film that’s difficult to spoil because the plot doesn’t matter. Just from watching the trailer you know what’s going to happen. She’s going to pretend to be into him but then actually fall for him, the friend who set the plan up is going to get annoyed and tell him the truth, he’s going to be annoyed but then they end up together. You won’t be too surprised to find out that that is what happens. But that’s not the important thing, you don’t watch this for the story being told, you watch it to see how they tell it. And they tell it well, the characters are likeable, the jokes are funny, and it feels like every actor has decided to add a really subtle physical quirk to make their characters seem like real people. The dialogue is really funny, and means that even though it is set in a universe that you can’t hope to visit, you still relate and are invested. It is a bit silly, but it knows it. There’s a great moment where Mr. Malcolm defends the list, and you feel his exasperation and confusion that he is somehow a villain for daring to actually like the women he plans to spend the rest of his life with. Shocking, I know. It’s an obvious point, and it’s good that the characters actually acknowledge and discuss it instead of just ignoring it like many other similar films do.

So in summary, you don’t NEED to see this, but it is fun, and I do recommend it.

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