Mary Reilly (1996) Stephen Frears
Production Budget: $47 million
Gross: $6 million
I bet you forgot about this movie right? You had filed this movie away in the deep recesses of you mind as a completely worthless and forgettable adaptation and I just dredged up the memories right? Sometimes it is not that hard to find out why a movie fails. It certainly isn’t a good sign when a movie goes through literally 25 rewrites. It doesn’t help when the two lead actors have a public rivalry making the production a debacle and tainting the perception of the movie as a whole. Finally I don’t need to mention Julia Roberts trying an Irish accent is one of the biggest movie FAIL moments in a long time (although I just did mention it).
So what is this movie about? I’ve seen the damn movie and I’m still asking that question, but I’ll first start with the book. The book is apparently a Saturn award winner (although I had not heard of it until now). It is based on the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Mary Reilly is about a maid for Dr. Jekyll who has a romantic relationship during his experiments.
Knowing that still doesn’t change the fact all during this movie I was asking myself what the point was and what this movie was trying to be. This isn’t a horror movie. At no point did it seem like it was trying to scare me or horrify me. This movie feels kind of like a Burton-esque gothic romance. It should be no surprise then after checking IMDb Tim Burton was signed on but decided to make Ed Wood instead. Mary Reilly doesn’t have the same quirky humor or imagination of Burton, but it has the same feel of a goth fucked up romance.
This romance also has all the passion and heat as sticking your junk on a block of ice. There is no “romance” here. Dr. Jekyll is only interested in Reilly clinically speaking. Reilly is a f*cked up girl with a lot of emotional baggage. There are extended scenes of Jekyll psychoanalyzing Reilly and I almost expect him to say “The lambs Clarice, tell me about the lambs…”
It also doesn’t help the pairing of Malkovich and Roberts are rather disgusting as romantic leads. Roberts has been uglied up in this movie with almost bald eyebrows and pasty makeup that makes Seamus look like George Hamilton. And I would sooner think of Tom Hanks as sexiest man alive than John Malkovich as a convincing romantic lead. I won’t just pick on Roberts for her god awful accent (although its hilarious); even Malkovich has an equally inconsistent and terrible accent.
This is not a good adaptation of either the Stevenson story or the Mary Reilly story (based purely on reader accounts). In fact, if you are not acquainted with the Stevenson story, it is almost not mentioned what the hell Dr. Jekyll is really doing. Jekyll is just doing some secret lab work and he creates this douchebag alter ego. Why? For what purpose? It’s never told in this story. That leads to my next problem.
Mr. Hyde is not all that compelling in this movie. He is built up all during the first half (kind of like Harry Lime in the Third Man) where we only get glimpses and whispers of how evil he is. When we finally meet him we find he is not so much evil as just an asshole. He beats up a few people but the majority of his evil acts are insulting people and drawing penises in medical textbooks (I’m not kidding). Heck I can get than from any episode of House. This culminates in a hilarious climax where Jekyll and Hyde mutate together. We get a CGI Malkovich baby head pushing through Hyde’s chest and both screaming out. If one of them said “Quuuuaaaaaiiiiiddd!” I would have lost my shit.
But I still come back to the tired question; what is the point? What is the moral? What does Mary learn? I know what the original story had to say. I have no point what this movie has to say though. This movie just exists; it sits on your head and crushes you. Mary Reilly is a dull mess with nothing good or interesting in any way.