Over the weekend, my mom, Dr. Feelgood, and I watched Mr. Malcolm’s List. The film, based on a novel and then a short film by Suzanne Allain, tells the tale of the machinations of a proud woman, Julia, who, after being spurned by wealthy and wildly handsome single Mr. Malcolm, decides to have her revenge. Julia’s hilariously chatty cousin Lord Cassidy tells her that Mr. Malcolm has a list of ten qualities he wishes in a wife–elegant family, musically talented, kind and honest to name a few. Julia decides to turn the tables on Mr. Malcolm by recruiting her lovely–inside and out–childhood friend Selina to, using the list, trick Mr. Malcolm into falling in love. The plan is, of course, for Selina to then reject Mr. Malcolm. It will startle no one who has ever read a romance to know that the plan does not go according to plan.

If you love period pieces, Mr. Malcolm’s List will suit. It’s awash with gorgeous gowns, elegant carriages, lavish gardens, and tea. It even boasts a masquerade ball. There are two love stories to propel the plot, both charming, and the film is exceptionally well cast. Sope Dirisu is a wonderful lead–his Mr. Malcolm is dignified, compassionate, and engagingly flawed. Freida Pinto’s Selina is almost too perfect but she gives her character just enough simmering impatience that her natural grace doesn’t grate. I adored Zawe Ashton–Julia may be overly entitled and remarkably clueless about her own heart, but as played by Ashton she is a woman you root for to overcome her mistakes and find her own happiness. Add in a very sexy, amusingly calm Theo James as Captain Ossory and you’ve four exceptionally winning stars.

We often talk about Bridgerton as having color-blind casting and while that’s true, it’s also true that race matters in Netflix’s Bridgerton. Kate is half-Indian and what that means for her acceptance in British society is part of the plot of Season Two. In Season One, Simon’s blackness along with that of Queen Charlotte is inherently important to the world of the show. The casting may be color-blind in that it cast actors of color in roles written for whites but it’s not blind to the color of the cast.

Mr. Malcolm’s List is genuinely color-blind. No one’s race or skin color is ever mentioned. The actor playing Mr. Malcolm may be black but that is irrelevant. Julia is black, her mother, played by Naoko Mori, is not but, again, it doesn’t matter. There is no racism in the world of Mr. Malcolm’s List.

Many argue that color-blind casting is actually a bad thing. Critics say such a view of the world is one of denial, that it whitewashes the sins of the past. I can see that argument but I’m still a fan. It’s a move in the right direction. The success of Bridgerton and of Mr. Malcolm’s List changes the way we see period pieces and who should star in them. And talking about it–there is a whole THING right now about Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman–is necessary as well.

My mother loved Mr. Malcolm’s List–she’s an 85 year old woman who grew up in a small Southern town. I did too. So did Dr. Feelgood. We felt the story was perfectly escapist and the leads dishy. And we loved seeing diverse faces on the screen. If you’ve not seen it, I recommend it. And if you have, I’d love to know what you think.

 

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Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.