Freida Pinto directs comedy Breezy Period – The Hollywood Reporter
The year is 1818. A trio of artists – two theater managers and a painter, to be precise – have founded a theater in South London. They call it the Royal Coburg Theatre; modern audiences know it as the Old Vic. An anonymous writer publishes Frankenstein, a seductive horror about a science experiment gone wrong. And Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton), an acerbic bachelor in Emma Holly Jones’ sympathetic comedy of errors Mr. Malcolm’s Listis, to his chagrin, still single.
Based on Suzanne Allain’s romance novel, Mr. Malcolm’s List is a witty tale of 19eof London’s competitive marriage market in the last century. If the previous sentence evokes images from Netflix Bridgerton, this is to be expected. Like this regency-era show, Mr. Malcolm’s List serves its golden rituals and lessons of love and friendship with a multiracial and multicultural showcase. Yet there are also elements of Jane Austen, like Mr. Malcolm’s List leans more satirically than its obvious television counterpoint. And while a sensual narrative fuels Bridgerton over his seasons, strong performances from key supporting players are what keep Mr. Malcolm’s List engaging.
Mr. Malcolm’s List
A nice comedy of manners.
Only a handful of people can understand Julia’s situation. Among them is Mr. Jeremy Malcolm (Sope Dirisu), a notoriously picky bachelor. Rumors about who he might end up circulating circulate every season. As the film begins, the spotlight is on Julia, whom Mr. Malcolm has invited to the opera. The pair make a great couple, or so the gossip mill says early in their evening. But the tides turn quickly and favorable opinion sours after Julia misunderstands Mr. Malcolm’s question on a hotly debated topic. She believes the Maize Laws are about diets rather than the economic well-being of UK farmers. The morning after the chilling date, Julia is the subject of cruel mockery across town.
Mr. Malcolm’s rejection and the ensuing backlash spur Julia to action. She calls on her cousin Lord Cassidy (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) to find out why Mr. Malcolm never called her. And it is through the search for the shy lord that a determined Julia discovers Mr. Malcolm’s list of qualities required for his perfect wife – a questionable practice to say the least.
Attentive viewers will know what is about to happen when Julia calls her childhood friend Selina (Freida Pinto) to come visit her in London. Selina, who has been writing Julia since they met as schoolgirls at Mrs. Finch’s Ladies Academy, can’t wait to see her friend again after all these years. Never mind the uneven nature of their friendship: Selina has dutifully written to Julia over the years, while Julia can barely keep up with events in her friend’s life.
Selina’s arrival initiates Julia’s plan to give Mr. Malcolm his reward. (She also manages to enlist a reluctant Cassidy.) Just as Selina pulls up to Julia’s lavish mansion in London, she’s put to work, training to become Mr. Malcolm’s dream wife.
Mr. Malcolm’s Lists takes its time to fit into its story. There’s a lot of set-up, from establishing Julia and Selina’s relationship at school via flashback to contextualizing the London marriage market. But once the pieces are in place, the nearly two-hour film follows a smooth, familiar cadence. The saturation of Regency and Golden Era visual content at the end means that viewers will be primed for the aesthetic grounds of List of Mr. Malcolm: Corseted dresses, large feathered hats, richly carpeted ballrooms and lively music that transports us from stage to stage.
As Selina gets to know Mr. Malcolm, they fall deeper in love. The two take long walks in lavish gardens and wander through museums. They joke about art and politics and engage in more serious conversations about love and loss. Pinto and Dirisu’s interactions are charming enough, but they never captivate or tickle as much as the supporting characters. Ashton, in particular, dominates, with his razor-sharp comedic timing ensuring a thrilling delivery of his tart lines. When she shares a screen with Jackson-Cohen or later with Theo James, who plays Mr. Malcolm’s friend Captain Henry Ossory, the film comes alive. Jokes and asides from Julia’s maid Molly (Sianand Gregory) and footman John (Divian Ladwa) add even more wit and texture with commentary that acknowledges the division of the ruling class and its hand. -work.
The foursome jokes support us until the end Mr. Malcolm’s List, when Julia’s plan comes up against predictable obstacles. Fortunately, enough broken hearts are mended, lessons learned, and compromises made that viewers don’t have to spend too much time wondering if love — in romantic couples or friendships — will prevail.