Moviepedia
Advertisement

Mary Reilly is a 1996 American horror film directed by Stephen Frears and starring Julia Roberts and John Malkovich. The movie was written by Christopher Hampton and adapted from the 1990 novel Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin (itself inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde).

This was the re-teaming of director Frears, screenwriter Hampton, and actors Malkovich and Glenn Close, all of whom were involved in the Oscar-winning Dangerous Liaisons (1988). The film ended up being a box office bomb, making just $12 million against its $47 million budget.


Plot

Mary Reilly comes to work as a maid in the home of Dr. Henry Jekyll. She and Jekyll develop a rapport and Jekyll begins to call on her for assistance to the consternation of his Butler, Poole. Jekyll is fascinated by scars Mary bears on her hand and neck, which she reluctantly allows him to examine, explaining they are from a childhood incident where her abusive father locked her in a cupboard with a live rat. The staff begin to notice the Doctor throwing himself into his work at odd hours, culminating in his announcement that he has hired an assistant, Edward Hyde, who is to be given full run of the household.

One night, having woken from a nightmare, Mary sees Hyde leaving the house and follows him, witnessing him paying off the family of a young girl he has savagely beaten with a cheque signed by Jekyll. Hyde later approaches her in the Doctor's library, crudely propositioning her and making taunting references to her relationship with her father. Mary is equally fascinated and repulsed by him.

On an errand to deliver a letter from Jekyll to Mrs. Faraday, a madam, Mary learns that a bloody mess at the whorehouse was caused by Mr. Hyde. Mrs. Farraday arrives at Jekyll's home and insists on seeing him. She demands more money for her continued silence. While watering the garden, Mary notices the lights in the laboratory go out, and investigating, discovers a small pool of blood on the theater table. She leaves, not noticing Hyde disposing of Mrs. Farraday's severed head.

Mary returns home to plan her mother's funeral. As she is returning to Jekyll's house, Hyde grabs her in the alley and forces her into an embrace; he is being pursued by the police. Eventually the police question Mary about the murder of Sir Danvers Carew, a friend of Jekyll's and Member of Parliament, and she denies having seen Hyde that day. Jekyll later warns Mary that she should not have lied to the police. In any case, because the public killing of Danvers Carew cannot be "easily swept under the carpet," Hyde must leave London; that is why, Jekyll explains, he has bribed and made Hyde swear to disappear forever.

Days later, Mary is surprised to discover Hyde in the doctor's bed. She tries to raise the alarm, but he stops her and then reveals his true nature: he explains that as a cure for depression, Jekyll injects himself with a serum and as a result becomes Hyde, who in turn injects the "antidote" to resume being Jekyll. Hyde says he now has the ability to appear without the aid of the serum, and tries to persuade her to have sex with him. Mary is shocked, finding all of this hard to believe; he lets her go.

Mary packs to leave, but on her way out, she decides to visit the lab. There Hyde attacks her and holds a knife to her throat, but he cannot bring himself to kill her. He then injects himself with the antidote, and Mary is forced to witness the horrific transformation of one man into the other. Jekyll reveals that Hyde has mixed a poison with the antidote, and then dies in Mary's arms. In the morning, Jekyll, although dead, has transformed into Hyde one last time, awake and smiling, as Mary walks into the fog.

Cast

  • Julia Roberts as Mary Reilly
    • Sasha Hanau as young Mary Reilly
  • John Malkovich as Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Edward Hyde
  • Michael Sheen as Bradshaw
  • George Cole as Mr Poole
  • Kathy Staff as Mrs Kent
  • Bronagh Gallagher as Annie
  • Glenn Close as Mrs Farraday
  • Michael Gambon as Mr Reilly
  • Linda Bassett as Mrs Reilly
  • Henry Goodman as Haffinger
  • Ciarán Hinds as Sir Danvers Carew
  • Tim Barlow as the Vicar
  • Stephen Boxer as the Inspector
  • Bob Mason as the Policeman
  • Isabella Marsh as Screaming Girl
  • Richard Leaf and Wendy Nottingham as Screaming Girl's parents
  • Ellie Crockett, Robbi Stevens, Kadamba Simmons, Evelyn Doggart, Pui Fan Lee, Mimi Potworowska, Samantha Hones and Julia Hagen as Farraday Girls

Production

Producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber acquired the film rights to Mary Reilly in 1989, and optioned them for Warner Bros. with Roman Polanski as director. When Guber became CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment later that year, he moved Mary Reilly to Sony's sister company, TriStar Pictures, where Tim Burton was approached to direct with Denise Di Novi to produce in 1991. Christopher Hampton was hired to write the screenplay, and Burton signed on as director in January 1993, after he approved Hampton's rewrite.

He intended to start filming in January 1994, after he completed Ed Wood, with Winona Ryder in the leading role but Burton dropped out in May 1993 over his anger against Guber for putting Ed Wood in turnaround. Stephen Frears was TriStar's first choice to replace Burton, and Di Novi was fired and replaced with Ned Tanen. Daniel Day-Lewis was TriStar's first choice for the role of Dr. Jekyll and Uma Thurman for the role of Mary.

Reception

Reports of alleged production delays and animosity between the two leads helped fuel the poor word-of-mouth preceding the film's release. Upon release, the reviews were negative, with few critics finding anything to praise about the production. As of 2020, Mary Reilly holds a 26% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 4.3/10. The website's critical consensus states: "Mary Reilly looks good and has its moments but overall, the movie borders on boredom."

One critic who could muster praise was Roger Ebert, who awarded the film three out of four stars, feeling the story "is in some ways more faithful to the spirit of Robert Lewis Stevenson's original story than any of the earlier films based on it, because it's true to the underlying horror. This film is not about makeup or special effects, or Hyde turning into the Wolf Man. It's about a powerless young woman who feels sympathy for one side of a man's nature, and horror of the other."

Many found fault with Roberts, calling her "miscast." Malkovich also received his fair share of ill mention. Here, too, Ebert disagreed, deeming the performances "subtle and well-controlled," noting Malkovich in particular as "quiet but simmering with anger."

Box office

Mary Reilly performed poorly at the box office. Opening in North American theaters on 23 February 1996, it would end up earning a paltry $5.6 million domestically. As international markets released it throughout the spring and summer of 1996, it would take in only an additional $6.7 million. Ultimately, the film grossed just $12.3 million worldwide. This was on a reported budget of $47 million. Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade of C on a scale of A+ to F.

Accolades

Julia Roberts was nominated for Worst Actress by the Razzie Awards, and Stephen Frears was nominated for Worst Director. Both "lost" to Demi Moore and Andrew Bergman, respectively, for Striptease. The Stinkers also nominated Roberts for Worst Actress; she "lost" to Whoopi Goldberg for Eddie, Bogus, and Theodore Rex. The film was also entered in the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.

Advertisement