Mr. Malcolm's List is a Bridgerton-like Regency romance A 19th-century British gentleman's requirements for his bride lead to a scheme with many complications in Mr. Malcolm's List, a Bridgerton-like romance based on Suzanne Allain's 2020 novel.

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Ticking down a checklist of qualifications in 'Mr. Malcolm's List'

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Delicate teacups, gentlemen tipping their hats to ladies with parasols. The new Regency romance "Mr. Malcolm's List" has a lot in common with those that have gone before. And critic Bob Mondello says that's true whether you're thinking of the traditional, historically white "Pride And Prejudice" or the more modern, diverse TV series "Bridgerton."

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: We are outside an opera house as a top-hatted figure approaches it - tall, Black and handsome.

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UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) The biggest catch of the season in the year of our Lord 1818 was the honorable Jeremy Malcolm. It was true he had no title of his own and was only a younger son...

MONDELLO: You don't really need details. Suffice it to say that he's soon sitting in a box with eligible young bachelorette Julia Thistlewaite, and her line of casually dismissive chatter is not going well.

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ZAWE ASHTON: (As Julia Thistlewaite) I do wonder why they make so many foreign operas. We are in England, after all.

SOPE DIRISU: (As Jeremiah Malcolm) You're not a fan of Rossini, Miss Thistlewaite.

ASHTON: (As Julia Thistlewaite) Is he the short, stout man?

DIRISU: (As Jeremiah Malcolm) No, no. He's the composer.

ASHTON: (As Julia Thistlewaite) Oh.

MONDELLO: He will not call on her again, which makes her the subject of gossip. And when she sends her cousin to find out why...

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OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN: (As Lord Cassidy) Well, unfortunately, you did not meet the fourth qualification. I would fail it myself as I have no interest in...

ASHTON: (As Julia Thistlewaite) He has a list of requirements for a bride.

JACKSON-COHEN: (As Lord Cassidy) Yes.

ASHTON: (As Julia Thistlewaite) The unmitigated gall.

MONDELLO: So Julia, played by Zawe Ashton, brings a childhood friend to London, country mouse to her city mouse...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MR. MALCOLM'S LIST")

ASHTON: (As Julia Thistlewaite) Selina.

MONDELLO: ...And hatches a plan.

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ASHTON: (As Julia Thistlewaite) If we were to present you as the perfect woman that he's looking for and then allow him to discover that you have a list and he does not meet the requirements on your list, well...

MONDELLO: What could possibly go wrong? Selina, played sweetly by Indian actress Freida Pinto, reluctantly agrees. And let's fast-forward a bit to their first conversation, where she finds Mr. Malcolm hiding away upstairs at a ball.

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DIRISU: (As Jeremiah Malcolm) Reflecting on the futility of a dream.

MONDELLO: Not knowing who he is, Selina replies...

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FREIDA PINTO: (As Selina Dalton) Is any dream futile? It gives us hope.

DIRISU: (As Jeremiah Malcolm) In your opinion. Others of us may believe, as the poet said, to hope is the most hopeless thing of all.

PINTO: (As Selina Dalton) I prefer to believe, as Johnson (ph) did, that hope...

MONDELLO: Yeah, yeah. Hope is the thing with feathers. You know where this is going. And director Emma Holly Jones and screenwriter Suzanne Allain know how to postpone its getting there. Postponement is sort of baked in, actually, this project having been in the works since Allain self-published her novel in 2009. So if you think you detect echoes of TV's "Bridgerton" in the multiculturalism, it's more the other way around. The story has a comfortable predictability, from attitudes needing adjustment...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MR. MALCOLM'S LIST")

ASHTON: (As Julia Thistlewaite) A gentleman doesn't like a lady to be more intelligent than he is - a wife with a mind, God forbid.

MONDELLO: ...To a leading man...

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PINTO: (As Selina Dalton) What do you find overwhelming, Mr. Malcolm?

MONDELLO: ...Who can admit to doubts.

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DIRISU: (As Jeremiah Malcolm) The society balls, gold-rimmed teacups, the tying of silk cravats - all this is very easy. You learn the rules. You follow the rules. If there is a moment where there is no rule, you make a rule. You follow that. I find everything else overwhelming.

MONDELLO: Sope Dirisu's Mr. Malcolm smolders handsomely. The ladies find various ways to put him in his place. And "Mr. Malcolm's List" ticks off Regency romance requirements - lush surroundings, velvets and satins, comedy of errors, of manners, of pride without prejudice - quite as if the filmmakers are under the impression the audience has a list. I'm Bob Mondello.

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