Mr. Malcolm Made a List, and I’m Reviewing it Once

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Mr. Malcolm’s List (CREDIT: Ross Ferguson/Bleecker Street)

Starring: Freida Pinto, Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, Zawe Ashton, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ashley Park, Theo James

Director: Emma Holly Jones

Running Time: 117 Minutes

Rating: PG for A Few Moments of Mild Offense

Release Date: July 1, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: It’s 1802 England, and let’s just acknowledge the truth: there are plenty of single men who would love a wife, and a lot of single ladies who would love a husband. But keeping an eye on your social standing can get in the way of that pursuit. Just ask Julia Thistlethwaite (Zawe Ashton), who has a fantastically bad first date with Jeremiah Malcolm (that’s the Mr. of the title, played by Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù) and then just can’t stop crowing about how her reputation has been ruined. When she discovers that he has a series of qualifications that his potential brides must meet (that’s the list of the title), she concocts a scheme along with her cousin Lord Cassidy (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) wherein her financially lowly friend Selina (Freida Pinto) will perfectly embody all of Mr. Malcolm’s requirements. But then they’ll pull the ol’ switcheroo and reveal that Selina has her own list that he doesn’t live up to. Although, we’d be wise to remember that schemes like these don’t always go according to plan…

What Made an Impression?: If you’re getting major Pride and Prejudice vibes from that synopsis, then congratulations! You might just be the target audience for Mr. Malcolm’s List. It even features a marriage proposal accompanied by the promise that it will not be offered a second time! Any romantic period piece in this particular setting is going to get caught in the shadow of Jane Austen’s classic, and this example is no different. So just keep your expectations in check. If you’re not demanding one of the most influential English-language stories of all time, you should be mostly satisfied.

Now, I must say, though, there were some infuriating elements, although I reckon that maybe they were supposed to be that way. First of all, Julia Thistlethwaite is absolutely, positively, 100% ridiculous. There is zero evidence that anyone else cares about or even notices this mythical damage to her reputation. As for Mr. Malcolm, he’s a mostly all right bloke, though maybe a little too stolid. But when he discovers the truth about the scheme, he overreacts in a way that just screams “Screenwriter’s Contrivance!” Sure, he’s meant to be prideful, but I think he’s smart enough to realize that he ought to wait for an explanation.  So yeah, these bits of characterization had me going, “What’s the DEAL with that?!” But if this genre is right up your alley, then you might just be reveling in all the bothers and to-dos.

Mr. Malcolm’s List is Recommended If You Like: Pride, Colorful shirts and dresses, Making time for tea, Crunchy eaters, Prejudice

Grade: 3 out of 5 Requirements

‘The Invisible Man’ Has a Scary Number of Tricks in Its Arsenal

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CREDIT: Universal Pictures

Starring: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman

Director: Leigh Whannell

Running Time: 124 Minutes

Rating: R for Deadly Weapons Deployed Unpredictably

Release Date: February 28, 2020

In the immortal words of Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And when it comes to loosely adapting H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man, one can give oneself a lot of leeway in terms of how much magic the titular fellow uses to render himself invisible. Writer-director Leigh Whannell (a veteran primarily of the Insidious series) makes it pretty clear which side of the magic-technology pendulum he’s swinging on by letting us know that his invisible man is “a world leader in the field of optics.” But while we are assured that there is a scientific basis for these strange happenings, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of movie magic. One shocking set piece in which a steak knife suddenly starts floating in the air underscores the power of good old-fashioned well-timed editing. Then there are the moments of actors getting thrashed about by seemingly nothing, and it amazingly does not come off as silly, thanks to whatever combination of camera tricks, CGI manipulation, and precise physicality is employed.

The Invisible Man demonstrates the far-reaching power of abusive relationships. They do not just tear apart the people within them, they can also break down anyone who comes into contact with their deceit and manipulation. The film begins with Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) escaping the mansion where she lives with her thoroughly controlling husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). While crashing at her friend James’ (Aldis Hodge) house, she is initially barely able to walk out to the mailbox until she learns that Adrian has killed himself. But soon enough, a series of inexplicable occurrences convince Cecilia that Adrian actually faked his death and has now become the ultimate stalker.

Everyone in front of and behind the camera takes their cues from paranormal films in which the victim of supernatural phenomena is dismissed as suffering from the hallucinations of mental illness. As Cecilia notes, that is the profound insidiousness of an abusive relationship at work, as the abuser does everything he can to make the victim look like she’s crazy. This approach also works fantastically on a formal level, as Cecilia struggles to convince the people around her that Adrian is right there when they are in the utmost danger. She is not asking them to believe anything beyond the physical realm, but rather, to sniff out a high-level illusion. Not only is Adrian invisible, he’s also apparently soundproof, odor-free, and otherwise imperceptible. I had to wonder more than once: where and when does he eat and excrete? That’s not a criticism, just a further illustration of how much he renders himself untraceable. A supervillain this inventive does not come around too often, and it is quite the catharsis when his deception is exposed.

The Invisible Man is Recommended If You Like: Monster scientists, sleek modern mansions rendered as haunted houses, overwhelming horror scores, comeuppance for abusers

Grade: 4 out of 5 Diazepam Pills