Reviewed by: Ken James
The classic tale of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde comes to life again, this time from the perspective of Dr. Jeckyll’s loyal but new household helper, Mary Reilly (Julia Roberts). If you are not familiar with the story, the good doctor Jeckyll is a well respected physician in his community, at the height of his career, when he withdraws from practice to work on a secretive new project. He spends long hours in his extensive laboratory and finally is jubilant as his work comes to a climax. It is then that a dark stranger, Mr. Hyde (Jeckyll’s assistant) emerges.
“Mary Reilly” is a dark and haunting story that leaves the viewer not quite sure where it is headed. What we are privileged to know is that Jeckyll and Hyde are one in the same person. But it takes others a while to figure it out. In the meantime, gross murders in 19th century England are underway and no one knows just where the story will end.
My exposure to Jeckyll and Hyde comes through Saturday morning cartoons, so one can only imagine how tainted my understanding of this classic work may be. One thing I do know is that this Mr. Hyde is one sick individual. He is the “free bird” that is not confined to societies laws, feeling at ease to say whatever he wishes, and commit whatever sin he may wish to indulge at the time. (Perhaps an interesting view of contemporary society with its “whatever feels right” mentality).
While there is no profanity or nudity to speak of, I do not recommend “Mary Reilly” or her dark tale. The film leaves one with a sense of dark uneasiness—the kind that can cause nightmares to some. Malkovich is a convincing Jeckyll and Hyde, with the perfect mix of controlled professionalism as the good but mysterious doctor, and as the reckless and psychotic Mr. Hyde.
Year of Release—1996