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1 review, 16 user ratings

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Mary Reilly
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by Rob Gonsalves

"A cruelly overlooked semi-horror film from Stephen Frears."
4 stars

The stuffy clothes, the furtive repression, the Victorian drizzle and fog .... "Mary Reilly" will undoubtedly leave many people cold, but I snuggled into its bleakness.

This film has been shot (by Oscar-winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselot) to be as black-and-white as a movie can possibly get and still be in color, and the world it shows us is one big grainy haze -- the gray area between virtue and sin, love and horror. Mary Reilly deserves a bigger audience than it got in this country, not least because it offers Julia Roberts' true breakthrough performance, with no glamour whatsoever but plenty of power.

Roberts gives herself totally to Mary Reilly, a maid in the house of Dr. Henry Jekyll (John Malkovich). Throughout the movie, Mary is like a frightened bird, always having her wings clipped by one abusive man or another. But Jekyll is kind to her, and he draws her into a small degree of intimacy by inquiring where she got the odd scars on her wrists and neck. He seems to respond to the pain and anger she carries around (but never expresses), but she doesn't know what to make of the signals he's sending.

It soon becomes clear that this gentle man of science is keeping a lid on a huge, steaming pot of sexual aggression. An assistant, Edward Hyde, enters the picture and .... Well, we know who Hyde actually is. But Mary doesn't. Or does she? Director Stephen Frears and writer Christopher Hampton (who previously collaborated on Dangerous Liaisons) slyly suggest that Mary knows more than she lets on, even to us. Comforted by the tender Jekyll, attracted to the savage Hyde, Mary is as divided as the doctor himself. And both men need her desperately.

Mary Reilly probes the raw flesh under this woman's sexual scars. The moviemakers, adapting Valerie Martin's novel, imply that Mary's preoccupation with her strange master is her way of empowering herself -- allowing herself to be drawn to a man who is both dangerous and safe. In Mary's tense moments of passion or peril, Roberts lets her face go utterly blank, a brave choice bound to be misinterpreted. Though her accent comes and goes, Roberts subtly communicates the shifting emotions of a woman shrinking in fear of herself. The beast in her is the Victorian beast of the sexual woman (embodied by Glenn Close in a sneering, mega-campy turn as a whorehouse madam).

As for Malkovich, his Hyde isn't quite as creepy as you might hope. (His Jekyll is creepier, probably by design.) That dead voice he uses is effective but indifferent, as if he didn't want to commit to his dialogue. And neither he nor Roberts can rescue the climax, which is far too literal (it reeks of studio meddling) and betrays the ambiguous tone the moviemakers have sustained so elegantly.

But even this parting shot in the foot doesn't cripple the movie. "Mary Reilly" is a mood piece in grays and blacks; the only spots of vivid color are the flowers in Mary's tiny garden and the blood of Englishmen (and women). Its one-two combo of hot desire and freezing rain gives you a Jekyll-Hyde fever.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=521&reviewer=416
originally posted: 05/22/06 01:02:34
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User Comments

7/28/10 art SO-SO,JOHN BARRYMORE"S 1920 DR>JEKYLL AND MR.hyde WAS THE BEST! 3 stars
9/16/06 sfj An excellent thinking and feeling movie, not a horror or action movie. 5 stars
6/07/06 Carolyn Rathburn not their best, but it was ok 3 stars
5/28/06 Charlene Javier Julia at her scariest. 2 stars
5/24/06 Paulette Gross Julia Roberts was no help to this dark and dreary film. 3 stars
10/17/03 Rei I love this movie! 5 stars
8/26/03 cochese shit 1 stars
10/15/02 Charles Tatum Goofy finale, and Roberts couldn't carry an accent in a bucket 1 stars
9/28/02 Carlestra Roshenko Cubo grasiento superior of the bell-Mannglocken Ashley Judd hick to the acidity also Julia! 2 stars
6/15/02 R.W. Welch Well enough done but the story is too familiar to generate much suspense. 3 stars
2/19/02 Bridget Asher I thought it was a very good movie. spectacular 4 stars
1/05/02 Andrew Carden Not Enough Action, and Too Much Romance. 2 stars
9/04/99 the Grinch Guys, it wasn't that bad. Pretty low key, often subtle, but there were some creepy scenes. 3 stars
12/09/98 Scion of Graveheart What the hell is that? You call that suck ass? Seems to me like you need a real life. 1 stars
12/07/98 Shadow Raider You'll regret it if you see this shit ever. Why don't you watch Law and Order? Godd idea. 1 stars
11/25/98 Mr.Pink Don't see it! You will thank me for it... 1 stars
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  23-Feb-1996 (R)



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