Mr. Malcolm’s List Movie Review

Warning: minor spoilers.

Jane Austen, is if nothing else the Queen of the modern romantic comedy. Her tales of love, loss, growth, and sometimes forced humility has entertained fans for over 200 years.

The new movie, Mr. Malcolm’s List (based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Allain), was released in movie theaters last weekend.

Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton, replacing Gemma Chan) has been publicly spurned and wants revenge. After four seasons on the marriage market, she is still single. The man who spurned her is Mr. Jeremy Malcolm (Sope Dirisu). Mr. Malcolm is the most sought-after bachelor of the season and has the pick of the litter when it comes to his future wife.

To fend off the masses, he has created a list of qualities that a woman must have if she is to become Mrs. Malcolm. When Julia finds out about the list via her cousin, Lord Cassidy (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), she concocts a plan to get back at him. Enlisting her old school friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto), she and Lord Cassidy (known to his friend as Cassie) turn Selina into marriage bait. The final result is for Selina to reveal her own list and reject Mr. Malcolm.

But as things tend to go in this genre, the scheme is turned on its head. Jeremy and Selina genuinely fall for one another. Making this love story even more twisted is the addition of Captain Henry Ossory (Theo James). Captain Ossory seems also to be courting Selina, creating a very interesting love triangle.

Though it helps to know something about the regency era and/or Austen’s writing, it is not a requirement to enjoy the film. There is enough to keep the modern fan entertained and laughing.

Like its streaming counterpart, Bridgerton, the main actors all come from different backgrounds. What drew me in and kept me going was the organic romance between Pinto and Dirisu’s characters. These are two people who are perfect for one another, if only they can put down their individual baggage.

My only complaint is that the secondary relationship between Julia and Henry was a little underdeveloped. They are supposed to be the Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley to Selina and Jeremy’s Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. The problem is that while Austen fully developed both couples, Allain (who wrote both the book and the screenplay) left Julia and Henry hanging.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Mr. Malcolm’s List is presently in theaters.

P.S. The costumes are gorgeous. Wearing any of them (specifically the ones worn by Pinto) would be a dream come true.

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Cyrano de Bergerac Review

Cyrano de Bergerac is the tale of unrequited love and finding the courage to tell the one you love how you feel.

The newest adaptation is playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Brooklyn. Told in a spoken word/hip-hop/Hamilton style, James McAvoy plays the title character. Evelyn Miller is Roxanne, the woman he loves, but is unable to reveal his feelings due to his unusually long nose. Eben Figueiredo is Christian, the young soldier who Cyrano uses to express his love.

My main reason for wanting to see this show is McAvoy. He is one of those actors who cannot be pegged as a certain character type. That being said, this version is not for the purists. It’s a creative take on the story that we all know. Beyond the unorthodox re-telling is that McAvoy is not wearing a prosthetic nose. This makes sense because even the most conventionally attractive of people are likely to harbor insecurities of some sort.

My problem with the play is that the first half is just a little too long and despite the excellent performances, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be. There is something missing that I cannot put my finger on that would have made the show that much better

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Cyrano de Bergerac is playing at BAM until May 22, 2022. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.

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Operation Mincemeat Movie Review

When it seems that every story about World War II has been told, the door opens to reveal additional narratives that have remained hidden.

The new Netflix film, Operation Mincemeat premiered last week. Based on a book by Ben Macintyre, it tells the story of a secret mission to end the war via a corpse and false papers.

Among those who are in on the secret are Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew MacFadyen), future James Bond creator Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), and Hester Leggett (Penelope Wilton). They know that if they succeed, it could mean victory for the Allies. But getting to that point requires strategy, timing, skill, and a little bit of luck.

For obvious reasons, the movie was a must-see. A cast chock full of Austen actors (including the two most popular Fitzwilliam Darcys), a spy thriller set in World War II-era England, and the fight for freedom against tyranny.

I have mixed feelings about it. What was good was that the main female characters were initially more than secretaries, love interests/spouses/female family members, and background characters. They were as important to the mission as their male colleagues. I also very much appreciated the subtle reference to the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry. It reveals that the Allies once again knew what was going on, but did nothing to stop it (which is another topic for another time).

What was bad is that about halfway through the film, I started to lose interest. It was as if the screenwriter(s) just gave up. The other thing that bugged me was the love triangle between Charles, Jean, and Ewen. It felt unnecessary. It also trivializes Jean, making her little more than the wannabe romantic significant other instead of an integral part of the group.

Do I recommend it? Disappointingly, no.

Operation Mincemeat is available for streaming on Netflix.

One True Loves Book Review

We are often told that we can only have one true love. But what happens when fate throws us a curveball and we have more than one?

One True Loves, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, was published in 2016. Just a year after her wedding to her high school sweetheart, Jesse, Emma has it all. A job that she loves, opportunities that take her far from the New England town that she grew up in, and a husband that is her world. Then she gets the news that no one ever wants to hear: Jesse is killed in a helicopter accident.

Needing to move on from her loss, Emma returns to her hometown and eventually starts dating again. Three years later, Emma is engaged to Sam and has settled in her new life. When her husband is found alive, Emma must make a choice. She could either continue with Jesse where they left off or start a new chapter with Sam.

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This book is really good. The author takes the love triangle, which is one of the cornerstone narratives within the romance genre, and elevates it. Emma is more than the woman who has to choose between two men. Her choice is a major life decision. I would not blame her if she went back to her husband. It is a very tempting thought, especially when our spouses/romantic partners are lost in a dramatic and violent manner. But, there is also a recognition that three years has passed. No one stays the same forever, we do change over time, regardless of whether we recognize it or not.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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