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We are somewhere in England in the 19th century. A Pretty housemaid works in a nice house, which is Dr. Jekyll's house. Mary Reilly think she found her best job, because she is poor and the doctor is well-known and rich. The film tells the 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' story as a woman sees the two men, one of them is good and the other is evil. And she loves them ... Written by
Kornel Osvart <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This has to be one of the most maligned films of the past couple of years; it's virtually shoved under the carpet every time Julia Robert's career is mentioned and it's generally dismissed as a bore. And in a lot of ways, it IS boring; not a lot happens during the course of the plot and as a horror film it utterly fails to provide a sense of urgency and fright in the conventional sense.
It's also one of the most elaborate, mysterious and beautifully conceived big-budget fantasies committed to film. The fact of its plodding storyline is, in a sense, besides the point of its true merit; that it is a dark, intensely brooding look at a woman's damaged sexuality and psyche and the oppressive times in which she existed. The original Valerie Martin book ingeniously transmogrified the Robert Louis Stevenson story into an examination of a lost female soul who finds her redemption in a fog-shrouded hell. Stephen Frear's film is in every respect a successful mood piece, a meditation on an individual's dark journey into not just a world of physical violence but her own crippled sense of selfhood and history of abuse. More than most other contemporary films about the Victorian era, this film captures in meticulous and visceral detail the horrors of the Industrial Age---the poverty, the pollution-ridden streets filled with animal gore and filth, and the era's preoccupation/repulsion of the human body and the ominous glare of scientific knowledge gone awry in a society ill-prepared to meet the consequences. The cinematography and production design (by the great Stuart Craig) are breathtaking. A swinging door, partially obscuring the surgically opened corpse on a table...Mary making her way through the streets of the market, surrounded by animal viscera...the shock of a roomful of a prostitute's remains, savagely gutted by a demonic hand...rats in the sewer, swarming into the crevices of Mary's mind...the Doctor's operating theater, like a coliseum of depravity...Mary, lost in the fog.
These images were indelible to me and entertained my consciousness far more than any typical horror film could hope to. Julia Roberts, for all her trouble with the Irish accent and going against her image as "America's sweetheart", is the very picture of a haunted and ravaged soul, nearly destroyed by the abuse and poverty of her childhood and bewildered by the mysterious machinations of her homicidal employer. She lends a great deal of vulnerability and conviction to her role and carries the film in ways beyond dialogue and posturing. Not once does she flash her trademark million-dollar smile but what she gives to the film is far more valuable than glitz and in her looks and inflections reveals more on-screen than most of her other films combined.
This film won't appeal to most people. And admittedly, it does fail in so many ways that a lot of audiences will be turned off. A lot of people will definitely be bored to tears by the slow pace and "what the H*ll is happening?!?!?" quality of the narrative. But for viewers who liked Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast", Neil Jordan's "Comany of Wolves" Caleb Carr's book "The Alienist" or perhaps Ken Russell's "Gothic", this is worth a try. It should not be written off as just another big-budget Hollywood failure, because its aims, whether conscious or not, are quite different from your average thriller or period film. Approach it with an open mind, be prepared for a dark and disconcerting vision, and you might be rewarded because this film is unique, baroque, different and great.
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