Prancing in like a delicious mixture of Bridgerton and 10 Things I Hate About You, Mr. Malcolm’s List brings elegant romance and charming comedy to the main stage. 1802 England is the perfect setting, wonderfully channeling the snappy prose of book writer Suzanne Allain, who also took on scripting duties. A wealthy suitor, twists and turns, a beautiful friendship, an adorable sidekick, and a lovable heroine—similar to the titular character’s list, there is a laundry list of excellent qualities about this Jane Austen-esque film.
Cast aside as another in a long line of prospects, social-climber Julia (Zawe Ashton) doesn’t understand why eloquent and mysterious Mr. Malcom (Sope Dirisu) has lost interest. Calling upon the help of her good friend, Lord Cassidy (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), Julia is shocked to learn that Malcolm has a list of qualities he is looking for in a prospective bride, and Julia is lacking in one of the categories. How dare Malcolm have the “unmitigated gal” to say that Julia’s eyelashes “irritated him?” It is enough to drive one mad!
Desperate and freshly scorned, Julia calls upon her very best friend since childhood, Selina (Freida Pinto), and makes an immediate proposition. In order to get her revenge, Julia wishes Selina to infiltrate Malcolm’s favor until he falls in love. Next, Selina must pull out the rug from under them to reveal that Selina, too, has a list, and Malcolm does not meet the correct criteria. It seems rather ludicrous and borderline cruel, but for Julia, revenge will never taste this sweet.
There is, of course, just one major problem. What if Selina starts to develop real feelings for Mr. Malcolm in spite of herself? How long can she continue the charade otherwise? Julia puts herself smack in the middle of their burgeoning relationship with all the hatred of a woman scorned. Similar to Bridgerton, there is a whole lot of talk about being the “catch of the season;” additionally, a queen remarkably similar to Lady Danbury, elaborate dances, and social-extravaganza balls all evoke that Netflix series.
Mr. Malcolm’s List, written in 2009, has already been made into a short film done by this exact same creative team, yet it feels as fresh and prescient as ever. The world of manipulation and social climbing depicted has all the makings of juicy popcorn entertainment. Whichever hunky man one is rooting for (Theo James is quite charming, if I don’t say so myself), there is truly something here for everyone. At the end of the day, the core trio (Ashton, Pinto, and Dirisu) gets the bulk of the runtime. An adorable ending that is equal parts satisfying and predictable appears to top off the film with a cutesy little bow.
Mr. Malcolm’s List dials it back to the regency era for theater audiences everywhere on Friday, July 1st.