Mary Reilly

on February 23, 1996 by Christine James
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Is it a gothic horror? Is it a psychological thriller? Is it a love story? Ultimately, it seems the filmmakers don't even know the answer, and as a result "Mary Reilly" doesn't succeed in any genre.
   The film was adapted from Valerie Martin's book of the same name, itself based on the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." This interpretation tells the story of the doctor dealing in duality, Dr. Jekyll (John Malkovich), through the eyes of his servant, Mary Reilly, played by a hauntingly gaunt, waveringly accented Julia Roberts.
   That a hairstyle keeps Mary from linking Hyde with Jekyll is as believable as Lois Lane not recognizing Superman because he's wearing glasses. Even with disbelief suspend-ed, it's difficult to get into the spirit of this film, because we don't know where it lies. If it's a horror tale, we want to be scared, but we're not. If it's a psychological thriller, we want dramatic catharsis, but there's none. If it's a romance, we want to be swept away, but we're left stranded.
   Malkovich and Roberts are both capable in their roles, but confusing and frustratingly diffuse writing and direction leave them little to work with. Glenn Close is a bright spot against the Edinburgh gloom, squeezing all she can out of the no-nonsense madam Mrs. Farraday. Starring Julia Roberts, John Malkovich and Glenn Close. Directed by Stephen Frears. Written by Christopher Hampton. Produced by Ned Tanen, Nancy Graham Tanen and Norma Heyman. A TriStar release. Thriller. Rated R for notable gore and some strong language. Running time: 118 min
Tags: Julia Roberts, John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Stephen Frears, Christopher Hampton, Ned Tanen, Nancy Graham Tanen, Norma Heyman, TriStar, Thriller, psychological, dramatic, Superman
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