Halloween Review – “Mary Reilly”

The countdown continues, with a recent adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Julia Roberts as Mary Reilly

John Malkovich as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

George Cole as Mr. Poole

Clenn Close as Mrs. Farraday

Written by Christopher Hampton, based on a Valerie Martin novel.

Directed by Stephen Frears

Complete information is available from the IMDB.

Buy from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca


Mary Reilly is Dr. Jekyll’s maid.

High Point

The beating of the child in the street. As horrible as that may sound, it made me feel even worse. This well executed moment removed any chance of ever liking Mr. Hyde.

Low Point

This element may be from the novel it was based on. (I haven’t read it.) Still, if it were, that would just mean the filmmakers could have changed it back instead of changing it in the first place. My complaint is that this is essentially a new perspective on a classic work. As such, it should serve as a consistent companion piece to that work. Instead, as we draw near the finale, we find that it rewrites the ending to the novel, in terms of the location of the staff, Dr. Jekyll’s activities and encounters on that night, and even Dr. Jekyll’s motivations. That spoils much of the novelty for me.

The Scores

The originality is based on the novelty I just mentioned. This is a different perspective on a classic novel, that should have had a lot of potential. Instead, this alteration in the doctor’s motivations just defaces the source material in a way that destroys the most thematically significant part of the story. Add in the fact that it’s still an adaptation, so it’s not even a completely original perspective, and it does very poorly. I give it 2 out of 6.

The effects were limited to the final sequence, and they weren’t very good. I give it 3 out of 6.

The story feels like it’s missing pieces. We learn about Mary Reilly and why she may be drawn to this beast, but there are still elements (like the rat at Farraday’s) that just seem to be there for the sake of being there. I couldn’t figure out what this movie was trying to do or say. You can’t treat this story as a mystery any more. The alteration to the doctor’s motives and Mary’s reaction strip out most of the potential to get a moral message across. As near as I can figure, the point is either to shoehorn a significant female character into a decidedly male population in this story (which may be justifiable) or to turn this into a love story (which is wholly inappropriate.) I just don’t see the point. I give it 3 out of 6.

The acting is easily the best part of the film. The acting is actually quite good, while much of the rest is mediocre. Julia Roberts did a good job, and John Malkovich played this version of Jekyll very well, in retrospect. (I didn’t like him at first, but that’s only because I was expecting to get the traditional version.) I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response was going along well enough, with the alternating nervous discomfort and disgust that the filmmakers were going for, until we learn of this Jekyll’s motives. That just seemed like such a slap in the face that it destroyed what this movie had going for it. I give it 3 out of 6.

The production is, admittedly, good. The mood is very well established, and consistently maintained. The colour choices were very carefully made. I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s not horrible, but it’s not particularly good, either. I give it 3 out of 6.

In total, Mary Reilly receives 24 out of 42.

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2 replies on “Halloween Review – “Mary Reilly””

  1. Sort of a combination of…
    Dr. Jekyll and Jane Eyre. Mary Reilly quietly falls in love with the brutish Dr. Jekyll, who in this case instead of an insane wife had an insane alter ego.

    I agree that the production was top notch and really made you feel like you were in 1800’s London with the sooty fogs and streetside butchers.

    • Re: Sort of a combination of…

      As you say, well-acted and well-realized, and for me, it worked as a character study. However, it needed more than that, and anyone expecting Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will be disappointed.

      Still, good to know Julia can act.

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