MARY REILLY (1996) 

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Julia Roberts
John Malkovich
George Cole
Michael Gambon
Kathy Staff
Glenn Close
Michael Sheen
Bronagh Gallagher
Linda Bassett
Henry Goodman

Stephen Frears



Time: 108 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Horror/Romance/Drama

SYNOPSIS: An innocent Irish housemaid finds herself enmeshed in a love triangle between her kindly employer, Dr. Jekyll, and his brutal alter-ego, Mr. Hyde.

BOTTOM LINE: Frears brings his unique visual style to another dark and intense period piece. Unfortunately for his stars, the look and feel take precedence over the plot. How a retelling of the Jekyll/Hyde tale could make one bored to tears is a mystery. It's easy to understand why Malkovich signed on. What man could resist such a dynamic role? However, since the story is told from the maid's point of view, the power of his characters are somewhat diminished. Sure, he's her worst nightmare come to life, but by being the sideshow instead of the main attraction the story lacks the morality, horror and suspense of the original.

Roberts leaves all glamour behind and gives a stunningly quiet and honest portrayal as the tortured young servant. Her usually beautiful face is ravaged by fear, loneliness and poverty. She makes you care for this simple girl and her struggle to survive, despite the deathly slow pacing and unfinished plot. As a horror/suspense flick, MARY REILLY fails terribly. As one that illuminates the trials and tribulations of living in the sexually repressed Victorian era, it succeeds admirably. If you ever have the patience to sit through this film, you'll thank God everyday for living in an era of indoor plumbing and 24-hour supermarkets. Roberts tries to bring life to this story, but the experience does not meet the expectations even when Malkovich is chewing up the scenary. A visually interesting piece that brings little new to the tale and lacks any reason to want to spend time with these characters.

"I have become what I always wanted to be. I am the knife as well as the wound."

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