Movie review: ‘Mary Reilly’ – ARCHIVE

Contrary to my site’s title, I do appear to have been a bit lost… My sincerest apologies.

If you follow any of my other blogs, you’ll know that I don’t write reviews of anything commonly, but occasionally something will stand out to me in some way. Given how focused I’ve become on movies and a few select other things, I’ve decided to take up my hand at this “reviewing” process. Perhaps it’s the journalism classes in my coming out. Who knows. But we’ll start with a movie I watched quite recently: “Mary Reilly”.

I’d read the original book, by Valerie Martin, and enjoyed it a great deal. The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one that I have always adored and been entranced by, and so to see the story told again from the eyes of a character that reminded me a great deal of Martha from “The Secret Garden” (another character with whom I am intensely familiar) was exciting, to say the least.

When I heard that there was a movie made of it, I had a few concerns, the most major of them being how exactly the movie was supposed to be presented. The book was written all in first person, as they were constructed as the journals that Mary kept as she worked in the Jekyll household. If the entirety of the book is presented as a character’s thoughts, how precisely are you going to translate them into a movie – which by its very nature is almost required to be third-person?

Well, I can’t explain specifically how they accomplished it, but the movie was, from what I recall of the book, quite the adequate translation. Much of the book is, of course, cut – but given that most of Mary’s life is repetitive and somewhat dull, this isn’t quite a loss. The scenes I distinctly remember from the book are in the movie, as well as the usual cut of scenes that make me think “wait, they– this wasn’t really in the book, was it? What is going on?”

Julia Roberts did a lovely job with the title character, and while I’ve heard many reviewers speak to the fact that this is the only role they’ve enjoyed her in, I can’t say the same. However, it’s not that I like a role better — it’s that Roberts appears to be one of those actresses that I hear a lot about, and seems to be in almost everything, but then I never actually see any of the movies she’s been in. “Hook” and “Closer” appear to be the two that I know well; “Runaway Bride” I saw part of on a plane once, and while my parents keep urging me to watch “Steel Magnolias,” it’s never quite gotten into the queue.

But regardless, Roberts’ work as Mary was believable and sweet; she was meek when she needed to be, but there was a sure inner fire that you could see in her eyes when she needed to pull it out. Also interesting was her rendition of how Mary reacted to Jekyll as opposed to Hyde, and then how that morphed as the movie progressed.

On that topic, there is the matter of John Malkovich’s portrayal of both Dr. Henry Jekyll and his counterpart Mr. Edward Hyde. The choice to have the actor play both parts and not change the physical appearance too dramatically (see “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” or “Van Helsing” for examples of that) was strong and well-played by both director and actor. At the very beginning of the movie, I immediately had reservations about Malkovich as Jekyll; at least in the first scene, he looked too strongly like some attempt at Don Quixote to me. However, as the movie progressed and I was allowed to see further into the character and start to see the nuances and the subtle sexual aura the character had, he grew on me. He was strong where he needed to be strong, and spoke with precisely the cadence of an intellectual of his time (or so I can imagine) – but was still allowed his moments of weakness and lack of surety.

Then as Hyde, he simply oozed the confidence and sexual prowess that Jekyll lacked (or rather, kept hidden), and was quite believably the nastier of the two. The interesting twist in this particular version was Hyde’s relationship with Mary. In the interest of keeping pieces of the plot as surprise to anyone that hasn’t seen the movie yet, I won’t go into details, but it’s an interesting attack for Hyde.  The one transition of Jekyll-to-Hyde (though if memory serves me, it’s the other way around in the scene) I’ll admit is creepy and a little awkward/disturbing, though fitting for the basic concept of the characters. Not my favorite, however.

Other notable performances were Michael Gambon as Mary’s alcoholic and abusive father – which was a shock for me. Not that he did a good job in the role, but that it was him. I am, after all, a 22-year-old girl; Michael Gambon to my eyes is the newest Albus Dumbledore. Proving that he is a talented and well-trained actor, however, I saw none of the lovable wizard in his performance (though I’ll admit to finding it odd to hear him speak some of the lines…). You don’t see much of him, but the scenes he is in are notable and integral to Mary’s overall plot.

Michael Sheen, though given an exceedingly small role, also did a lovely job as one of Mary’s fellow servants, Bradshaw. Having recently seen him in both “Frost/Nixon” and “New Moon” (forgive me), and looking forward to seeing his role in “Alice in Wonderland”, it was good to see him in another role. Bradshaw is in many ways, simply a slice of comic relief, but he was a well-played one.

Glenn Close also had a small but notable role as Mrs. Farraday, the brothel owner that Jekyll pays and Hyde sees. She served the somewhat stuffy and oversexed woman well, and though she’s only in a handful of scenes, she’s a face that will stick with you for the whole movie. Very strong.

Adding to the list of small parts, you see Ciarán Hinds briefly in a scene with Close as the character Sir Danvers Carew. I’d thought he looked familiar, and upon further inspection I knew why: he’s the man behind Monsieur Firmin from the newest rendition of “The Phantom of the Opera.” He will also be appearing as Aberforth Dumbledore in the upcoming “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, so I’ll be looking forward to that. It was unfortunate that Sir Danvers didn’t get as much screen time in this as his character has elsewhere; it would have been nice to see such a talented actor play with the character a bit more.

Overall, an interesting but well done rendition of the story, and one that while I may not recommend you rush right out and see immediately, it’s definitely a movie to stick in your Blockbuster or Netflix queue and keep until a rainy/snowy/etc. day. 4 out of 5 stars.


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