MR MALCOLM'S LIST is a regency Austen-esque self-proclaimed rom-com that is actually devoid of sexual chemistry or satire. It sits upon the screen like a dead fish, plodding faithfully to its entirely predictable conclusion, under-written and limply acted. The only exception to this turgid tedium is Zawe Ashton's arrogant but vulnerable Miss Thistlewaite, who drives the plot and the only real attempt at comedy.
The plot, such as it is, is out of a Sweet Valley High novel. Mr Malcolm is a fastidious but rich bachelor - think Mr Darcy. He snubs the superficial Miss Thistlewaite so she decides to lure him into falling in love with her friend Selina, before Selina rejects HIM with her own list. The problem is that Selina and Malcolm are actually ideal for each other, and Miss T is also exposed as a snob for not accepting the courtship of Captain Ossory, who is beneath her in the social pecking order.
I love Austen. I love Austen inspired rom-coms both high-brow and low. I love Bridgerton! So I should be the ideal audience for this film. I was in its corner. The indie costume drama is a rare thing and one cast in a refreshingly colour-blind way even rarer. I sat down to watch it hoping it would be brilliant. I suspect the faults lie in two directions, as director Emma Holly Jones conjures up some lovely use of landscape and interior. First of all, Suzanne Allain's script, based on her own novel, is very dull indeed. Second of all, Freida Pinto is hopelessly miscast and/or underwritten as Selina. She is meant to be independent of mind and a grounded, vital foil for Mr Malcolm (or so I infer). Here she comes across as meek and milquetoast as Fanny Price. Plus there was zero chemistry between her and Sope Dirisu's Mr Malcolm. I couldn't have cared less whether they got together or not. We get further with Theo James's Captain Ossory romancing Zawe Ashton's Miss Thistlewaite but that story isn't given time to breathe. Also, not to sound ageist, but I don't understand why a film about two young twenty-somethings is cast with late thirty-somethings?
Overall, one to avoid.
MR MALCOLM'S LIST is rated PG and has a running time of 117 minutes. It is available to rent and own.