Mary Reilly (1996)

The swooping shots across darkened rooftops suggest a very Tim Burton
movie, but, alas, no caped crusader descends to save *this* film.
Instead, it's a skeletal housemaid (Julia Roberts) who must bear
witness to this unfortunate retelling of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."
For a few, fleeting, maddening moments, director Stephen Frears
(DANGEROUS LIAISONS) gets everything just right-- the tone, the
colors, the characters; all the ingredients to make a most-powerful
potion out of Valerie Martin's best-selling novel.  Yet it fizzles
too quickly; the volatile mixture losing potency from the very first

Casting is a large part of the problem.  The story all but collapses
around Ms. Roberts-- she doesn't have the range for this kind of
drama.  Her accent also comes and goes, though it's nowhere near as
glaring as the total lack of chemistry between her and co-star John
Malkovich.  (He looks the same in both of his roles-- an incredible
fact that's missed by everyone in the story!)  The very British
supporting cast-- including Michael Gambon and George Cole-- gives
credibility to the smaller parts.  Glenn Close also appears as a
Madam that the Good Doctor calls upon.  Her performance is as close
to intentional camp as the movie ever gets and-- as a bonus-- offers
a likely peek at her upcoming Cruella De Ville in the live-action 101

The biggest botch in MARY REILLY is suspense:  there is none.  No
terror, no tension; nothing.  Without any weight, wit, or wonder to
propel the story, the viewer is left with little more to do than pay
attention to the period detail, a few buckets of blood, and Stuart
Craig's fabulously dreary production design.  All of which gets old
after about an hour, at which point I recommend leaving.  (The pacing
in the second-half is especially abominable.  If you *do* stick it
through, your sole reward is a half-hokey special effect depicting
the infamous transformation.)

Mr. Frears reportedly recut his film several times, missing several
release dates in the process.  (Obviously, no one advised him to
throw up his hands and just turn the whole damned thing over to Mel
Brooks.  Blucher!)  MARY REILLY is the second Robert Louis Stevenson
story of the month, after MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND.  Perhaps Mr. Frears
should consult with Brian Henson on future projects.  I daresay that
even Ms. Piggy is a better choice for a certain roles than Julia
Roberts.  And she does have a great chop!  (Rated "R"/118 min.)

Grade: D-

Copyright 1996 by Michael J. Legeros 

Originally posted to triangle.movies as Hyde From Mary Reilly

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