Little Malcolm (and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs)

“Toxic masculinity” is a popular phrase these days, and it’s usually applied (in America, at least) to the sort of macho, jock-like “Bro’s” who show off in front of women and are completely out of touch with their emotional selves. Homophobia, misogyny, and aggression are their traits; and while they can be found everywhere, our current culture mostly focuses on the conservative-leaning types who voted for Donald Trump and march around with tiki torches claiming Proud Boy credentials.

But that’s not the whole story, of course. Men have been wandering around like the insecure animals they are from the very beginning in all sorts of roles and cultures, and Little Malcolm might just be the best depiction of that male aspect ever committed to film. Passionately played by the great John Hurt in what easily qualifies as an Oscar-winning role, Malcom is an art school dropout who pontificates about pretty much everything in angry, long-winded speeches heard mostly by his three best buddies, who idolize him like the revolutionary leader he dreams about being.

Together, they form a not-very-merry band of outsider misfits that screenwriter David Halliwell clearly drew from his own art-school experience in England at the time (the original Little Malcolm was a six-hour play.) Like the characters from It’s Only Sunny in Philadelphia, their own cluelessness is their lone saving grace, allowing us to laugh at their ridiculous antics because, God help them, they clearly just don’t get it. Watching it today, what is fascinating to note is how easily this loudmouth European wannabe artist archetype translates to 21st Century America: men, who, for all their prattling on about their sexual exploits and lofty political ideals, are basically little boys who are scared shitless of women. Comic book geeks, gun collecting survivalist types, you can insert your own stereotype here: ____________.

The entire cast is brilliant in this satire that bounces between silly and dark, especially a young David Warner (as Malcolm’s best pal and rival) and Rosalind Ayres, who never quite broke in America but is wonderful here as Malcolm’s sort-of love interest, managing to be sweet and vulnerable yet strong and empowered at the same time. Like most plays-turned-films, Little Malcolm sticks to simple settings and powerful dialogue to make its point, but director Stuart Cooper does a great job keeping the film from feeling like a staged play. Financed by the one-and-only George Harrison (who wrote songs specifically for the film,) this lost British indie deserves a much better fate than the one it originally received.

One thought on “Little Malcolm (and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s