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

‘Velvet Buzzsaw’: Something Killer This Way Arts

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CREDIT: Claudette Barius/Netflix

Not too long before I watched Velvet Buzzsaw, I discovered that its director, Dan Gilroy, has been married to one of its stars, Rene Russo, for nearly 30 years. I migh have previously known that fact, but I don’t think I knew about it as far back as Gilroy’s last film, 2014’s Nightcrawler, which also featured Russo acting quite excellently. Besides making movies together, they also have a daughter who’s already all grown up. I mention all this because I enjoy thinking about the familial background that can go into making a movie. And also, I find it more satisfying to think about the Gilroy-Russo family than I do to think about Velvet Buzzsaw. That’s not to say that Velvet Buzzsaw is bad, but rather, it’s just to say that I’m the type of person who generally finds it heartening to see even just a snapshot of any family life.

Anyway, it’s particularly interesting to think about this marriage in light of Russo’s death scene in Buzzsaw, which her husband wrote AND directed! Honestly, I think it’s the sign of a good relationship when you can orchestrate your spouse’s death onscreen but not do so in real life. It’s a pretty gnarly moment and probably the best realization of the movie’s concept of “killer art.” I got a real Wes Craven’s New Nightmare “art imitating life” vibe during Velvet Buzzsaw‘s first deadly set piece. It takes us a little while to get to all the moments of the paintings and pieces tearing up human flesh, but when they do happen, they’re impressively, lavishly staged. But I think I would have recommended getting to the gore a little more quickly, because before we get there, we don’t have much to latch on to, other than Jake Gyllenhaal (who, you may recall, was also previously directed by Gilroy in Nightcrawler) as a fellow named “Morf” lounging around naked with only a laptop to cover his naughty bits.

I give Velvet Buzzsaw 3 Thick Black Eyeglass Frames out of 5 Wax Families.