Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Literary, science fiction, horror
Approx. 24,500 words
Mary Reilly (Julia Roberts) is kept quiet by Jekyll/Hyde (John Malkovich) in the film titled for her.
The monster and his lover
Mary Reilly (1996): Director Stephen Frears; writer Christopher Hampton; featuring Julia Roberts, John Malkovich, Michael Gambon, Glenn Close
For a different take on the good-and-evil classic, you can try Mary Reilly (1996).
It's not directly based on the Stevenson story but rather on a novel by Valerie Martin. The main incidents in the original tale are followed but the narrative focuses on the relation of a maid in the Jekyll household (a character I couldn't actually find in the original novella) with her master.
In the hands of sensitive director Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liaisons, The Queen), the film is atmospheric—all gloomy, misty, and moving at an excruciatingly deliberate pace.
Julia Roberts submerges her movie star charisma beautifully into the meek, conflicted Mary—so much so that one wonders what draws Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde to her. Worse, one can't for the world understand what she sees in the effete boss or his violent alter-ego.
On paper John Malkovich sounds like a great Jekyll/Hyde, having played both aesthetes and villains to good effect.
But there's too little difference between his personas in this piece. His Jekyll is obviously on the edge, nearly deranged, and his Hyde really looks like him—something one of the other servants mentions—except with much longer hair and minus the goatee. (How does that transformation take place?) Plus, Malkovich uses the same soft, prissy diction for both.
Mary soon learns Hyde is an out-of-control serial murderer, and yet she is obviously attracted to him—something to do with the flashbacks to her childhood when she was tortured by her drunken father (Michael Gambon). I don't really want to ponder too long what this is trying to tell us.
Glenn Close essentially reprises her Cruella De Vil characterization from the Dalmations movies, now applying curled lips and hideous make-up to the role of a greedy bawdy-house madam, who makes the mistake of taking on Hyde.
Overall it's a dreary movie that never rises to the levels of drama or insight promised by the premise of the Jekyll-and-Hyde story as seen by a household insider.
— Eric McMillan