Starring: Sope Dirisu (Gangs of London), Freida Pinto (Needle in a Timestack), Zawe Ashton (Velvet Buzzsaw)
SYNOPSIS: In 19th-century England, a wealthy young lady named Julia engages in courtship with Mr. Malcolm, a mysterious wealthy suitor, unaware that he has a list of qualities required of a future wife.
Let me start by saying that I have not watched a single episode of Bridgerton, nor am I a big fan of films based in this or similar time periods. Please don’t report me to Shonda Rhimes’ fans, but this film was so enjoyable that it makes me want to give projects like it a chance. From the writing to the costume design and settings, I felt lost in the 1800s (minus the slavery part). The whole team did a great job setting up this time piece and giving the actors a great medium to work with.
For starters, I am a Freida Pinto fan because she tends to pick compelling characters and is an overall good actress. Her portrayal of the heartwarming Selina Dalton made for a good love story with Mr. Malcolm. Her’s seemed to be the most self-assured and most genuine out of all the characters. I found myself rooting for Selina as she was able to match wits with the guarded and, at times, arrogant Mr. Malcolm.
A wealthy Black man is the most eligible bachelor featured in the trailer; you know I had to give the film a watch. Mainly because not too many mainstream projects feature this type of material. It works here and it creates a world where it’s not the complexion, race, or culture that stands out, but the story. I enjoyed Sope Dirisu as Mr. Malcolm as his performance proved to be exceptional. During the course of the film, Mr. Malcolm’s layers (both good and bad) were slowly revealed. There are times when he’s with Selina and he puts his foot in his mouth, ruining these moments. In my mind, I’m like “hey, bro can you have a little more tact?” and “you’re being an asshole.” Other times, I felt he was just like most Black men, including myself, in that you want to choose a wife who loves and cares about you as a person, not based on your possessions. Mr. Malcom’s mother did embody some Claire Huxtable energy because she knew where her son’s heart was and called him on his bullshit. That was entertaining in itself.
Okay, so I must admit that the show stealer of this whole film was Zawe Ashton who portrayed Julia Thistlewaite. Her facial expressions when she gets pissed or is focused on Mr. Malcolm’s displeasure was so funny. Her quick comebacks and insults brought humor to the film while also helping to maintain the tone, as she was easily able to throw out a funny snide remarks while keeping a straight face. Good job Ms. Ashton! At first, her perceived rejection seemed childish or akin to something a teenage drama queen would go through, but you soon come to realize how much of an impact the encounter had on her psyche. Given the time period and the movie’s environment, this wasn’t an easy character to like or make redeemable, but Zawe pulls it off. I definitely now want to see more of her work after watching this film. Constance Wu was originally supposed to play the role of Julia, which would have been ok, but I think Zawe makes it clear that this role was made for her.
I found Mr. Malcolm’s List to be one of the better rom-coms I’ve seen in the last few years, mostly because I found each character relatable. This movie encompasses some life lessons that many of us have had to learn or are currently learning. When it comes to love, emotions, relationships, and dating, we are all trying to figure it out and, in most cases, it is a hot mess. Only after we get out of our own way and learn not to be influenced by society (or media) can we discover ourselves and find what works best for us. This is what Mr. Malcolm’s List accomplishes. I would recommend watching it with a group of friends and seeing what deep discussions develop.
You can watch Mr. Malcolm’s List on all major platforms including Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play, and Vudu.