To watch this engagingly foolish and self-aware comedy is like inhaling a good-sized tank of nitrous oxide. Tailored by Suzanne Allain from her personal novel and directed by Emma Holly Jones making her function debut, it’s a romantic Regency romp within the numerous, postcolonial “alt-history” universe popularised by Bridgerton on TV. And casting folks of color as fictional British aristocrats within the declining years of George III want be no extra of an affectation than having non-white folks play factual kings in Shakespeare’s historical past performs.
This good-natured leisure is actually extra watchable than the wince-makingly smug new model of Jane Austen’s Persuasion on Netflix, which misjudges the identical method. Mr Malcolm’s Checklist understands its parameters and limitations and the worth of leaving the fourth wall unbroken, and perhaps above all it understands that Bridgertonian intrigue is within the brisker custom of Georgette Heyer, not Austen. Everybody concerned takes a demure but additionally gleeful pleasure within the ridiculous bonnets and preposterous bows, the furbelows, foppery and unfeasibly tall hats.
Zawe Ashton, having starred in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal on Broadway and created one of many nice sitcom characters with Vod in Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain’s TV comedy Recent Meat, brings a subversive satirical pressure to the character of Julia Thistlewaite, a extremely strung younger lady who’s husband-hunting in trendy London. She has been requested on a date to see The Barber of Seville within the firm of society’s wealthiest and most eligible bachelor, the Hon Jeremy Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù) who’s bored by her nervy and untutored chatter. When he spurns her, Julia is outraged to listen to it’s as a result of she didn’t measure as much as his secret checklist of 10 bullet-pointed attributes for a great bride. To get her personal again, she invitations her finest buddy, penniless clergyman’s daughter Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto), as much as city to ensnare Malcolm, by faking the ten comely attributes from his checklist. In the meantime good-looking ex-cavalryman Captain Henry Ossory (Theo James) appears to have taken a shine to Selina as effectively; he’s so tight-trousered his fly button will certainly have somebody’s eye out.
It’s all performed completely straight, and but additionally with a cake-icing of irony, virtually like a play by Ernie Clever: observing the decorum, but additionally hyperaware of each the surreal bizarreness of its conventions and the lethal seriousness by which they’re historically represented. The various casting is a form of distancing impact, though that wears off, and isn’t clearly striving for contemporary relevance. What can be of curiosity is the way in which this movie flips the gender roles within the romcom custom of enjoying a trick on somebody however then falling in love with them. In, say, 10 Issues I Hate About You, Heath Ledger’s powerful man is secretly paid thus far Julia Stiles however then develops actual emotions for her. Right here, Pinto’s character hoodwinks Mr Malcolm however then involves be mortified at what she has accomplished and the way she has harm his emotions.
Mr Malcolm’s Checklist has no nice ambitions aside from to amuse. That’s all the time tougher than it appears.