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(Review originally written at 16 September 2006)

In this movie director Stephen Frears tries to tell the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from a different view point; that of housemaid Mary Reilly. He does this in a subtle, slow and dark style. That all combined makes "Mary Reilly" an uneasy and unpleasant movie to watch that's all style over substance. The movie lacks scares, tension, mystery and an overall good pace.

It's hard to say what is the biggest problem and failure of the movie, since there are so many little things present in this movie, which all combined makes this movie a failed attempt. One of them is the story itself. It not only is told slow and perhaps even boring, it also features lots of unneeded sequences with uninteresting characters involved. Another major problem I had with this movie was its style. This movie is darker than dark. I don't know, for some reason a movie that is entirely dark just doesn't ever work out as a scary or mysterious one. Its dark style rather makes this movie an uneasy one to watch. Granted that the cinematography is good and so are the sets and costumes but this is mostly ruined and pushed to the back by the overly dark and depressing atmosphere of the movie. Everything also isn't told in the most arousing pace, which causes this movie at times to be a drag and far from interesting one.

Normally Julia Roberts obviously is one fine actress but not in this movie. She feels out of place and basically all she does in this movie is look scared with her big eyes. Not her finest moment. I also expected more from John Malkovich. I mean, he seems like the perfect guy to portray the evil and scary Mr. Hyde but he gets very little interesting to do in this movie. Lots is implied in this movie but very little is actually shown on screen. The movie also features Michael Gambon, Glenn Close, Michael Sheen and Ciarán Hinds in an early role. They are fine but they basically add very little to the story in their little roles, which seems to have been written just for them, so they could be in this movie. I also don't like how they changed the Mr. Poole the Butler character. Poole is a loyal, friendly, hard working man but in this movie he is more portrayed as a villainous tough boss, who you don't want to mess with.

Also perhaps the most laughable and unbelievable element of the movie is that the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde character look obviously alike. Both are of course played by John Malkovich but no make-up is applied and he doesn't alter his voice. Some voice, same hands, same face, same eyes but yet nobody recognizes Mr. Hyde as Dr. Jekyll. Basically only difference between the two characters is that Mr. Hyde has long hair and Dr. Jekyll is unshaven. Also their personalities are actually much alike. I really didn't see so much difference between the 'good' Dr. Jekyll and the 'evil' Mr. Hyde.

The ending, although it's good looking and effective, is a letdown that doesn't feel like a fitting ending at all.

This movie is definitely not an easy one to watch. If you're not familiar at all with the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, written by Robert Louis Stevenson, than this movie is completely unwatchable and not understandable to watch for you, as well as an even bigger bore than it already is at certain moments.

A failure but a beautiful one, that still is not worth seeing.

4/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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