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Film / Mary Reilly

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Did you ever wonder what The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde would be like if Jekyll, Hyde or both of them had a woman in their lives?

Mary Reilly tells the story of an Irish maid in Henry Jekyll's household, who becomes the confidant and love interest of Jekyll, the unwilling accomplice and object of lust for Edward Hyde and the holder of the suspension of disbelief for the audience, since by now the doctor's dark secret is common knowledge.

While at first Mary and Jekyll are very aware of their social stations as servant and master, they gradually grow closer as Mary unbends to him and shares her traumatic past. Soon there's a shakeup in the household as the doctor announces that he plans to employ a new assistant, and his staff are naturally curious about this new man — especially since they never seem to be able to catch even a glimpse of him.

Then Jekyll begins to ask Mary to run errands for him — some less than tasteful, such as delivering a letter to Mrs. Farraday, the madame of a brothel, in order that his assistant can rent a room. While up late one night, Mary witnesses the self same assistant handing over a cheque for blood money after seriously injuring a young girl. And when she finally meets the enigmatic Mr. Hyde, the lives of Mary, Jekyll and the dangerous man who holds them both in his thrall soon spiral out of control...

The film stars John Malkovich as both Jekyll and Hyde and Julia Roberts as Mary. Based on a novel by Valerie Martin, which was nominated for a Nebula and World Fantasy Award.


  • Abusive Parents: Mary's father whipped her with his belt for breaking a cup once, and later locked her in a closet with rats. It's implied he may have raped her as well. Mary's mother actually knew nothing about it since she worked all day. Mary does say that her father was nice to her before he started drinking.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Mrs Farraday refers to the doctor as Harry, hinting at past and more cordial relations. Things are far from cordial in the present, since she tries to blackmail him over Hyde's abuse of her workers.
  • And I Must Scream: Mary's father locked her in the cupboard under the stairs and then put a rat in a sack in there with her, knowing she was scared of them. The kicker is of course Mary sitting in fear knowing that eventually the rat would bite its way out of the bag.
  • Anti-Climax: Much like in the original novel, Hyde commits suicide at the end of the film rather than face justice for his crimes.
  • Asshole Victim: Mrs. Faraday is a sneering brothel madam who recruits poor girls (many of them in their early teens) to work as prostitutes; Sir Danvers Carew is an arrogant and hypocritical politician who is her most avid customer.
  • Beauty Inversion: Julia Roberts bypasses Hollywood Homely straight away to look quite believable as a dowdy and repressed scullery maid.
  • Body Horror: John Malkovich undergoes one of the most gruesome and spectacular Jekyll/Hyde transformations ever committed to screen, with Hyde appearing inside Jekyll's body and growing outwards.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Mrs Farraday is the blonde and the other maid Annie is brunette, to contrast with Mary's redhead.
  • Call-Forward: Hyde walks with a unique limp as book readers will know. Mary first tells Jekyll that her father walked strangely as well before we first see Hyde, implying Jekyll got the idea from her.
  • Cant Get Away With Nothing: Poole the butler will not cut Mary a break for anything. Even an offhand remark to Jekyll about worrying that he's working too hard earns her a rebuke for "presuming she can tell the Master how to do his job."
  • Character Title: The film is named after the main character, a maid working for Dr. Jekyll.
  • Clark Kenting: Actually done pretty convincingly here. Only a change in hairstyle, facial hair, eye colour (John Malkovich wore blue contacts to play Jekyll) and mannerisms distinguish Jekyll from Hyde, but since Hyde doesn't interact very much with Jekyll's staff apart from Mary he can get away with it. That said, some of the servants do discuss the close physical resemblance between the two and gossip about how they might be related (there's talk that Hyde could be an illegitimate son). It also does say something about Malkovich's acting ability that he is able to make Jekyll and Hyde seem like very different people.
  • Costume Porn: Mrs Farraday's costumes are garishly sumptuous, in direct contrast to the plain and dowdy clothes that the servants wear.
  • Death of a Child: A little girl is seen being beaten to death on the street.
  • Dull Surprise: At first Mary reacts very little — both to the strange requests Jekyll makes of her and the jabs Hyde aims at her — which is understandable due to having been in service so long and to having been abused as a child, meaning she likely has a tight grip on her emotions. As things start to go wrong and the terror mounts, her feelings begin to escape.
  • Empathic Environment: The growing flowerbeds in the kitchen garden represent the growing relationship between Mary and the doctor.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Mrs Faraday, in contrast to the demure red-haired Mary.
  • The Film of the Book: The film is based on a 1990 novel by Valerie Martin.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Mary's scars are on her hands and around her neck but they are easily covered up by her clothes and her face is untouched. Of course, since the scars came from a rat biting her, it makes sense she'd cover her face while it was doing so.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We never actually see Mary's father whipping her or the rat biting her, but Mary's scars speak for themselves.
  • Informed Attribute: Mary has been in service since she was twelve years old, yet she behaves as though she is new to the job, speaking out of turn to the doctor and snooping around very obviously. Though it could be justified as Mary says "this is by far the best place I've worked" which could imply this is the only house where she'd normally be able to get away with behaviour like that.
  • Kick the Dog: Mary's mother's landlord stuffed the mother's body into a wardrobe since there was such a high demand for her room.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: When Mrs Kent talks about a maid who was summoned to the master's room every day, Bradshaw remarks that "I expect she now entertains gentlemen at all hours of the day".
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Mary is always shown at her most vulnerable with her hair down.
  • Living a Double Life: Jekyll takes pains to set things up so that none of his servants can learn the truth, and so that Hyde has carte blanche to indulge himself.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: John Malkovich keeps his American accent playing the British Jekyll and Hyde, though he does don an Irish accent during one of Mary's dreams.
  • Oireland: In a dream sequence involving Mr Hyde, Mary imagines him with an Irish accent. It's kind of funny to listen to Malkovich try. The trope is also averted with the other maid Annie, played by Northern Irish actress Bronagh Gallagher using her own accent.
  • One-Steve Limit: In the brothel, Sir Danvers calls out "Mary!" and Mary thinks he's talking to her - but he's summoning one of the prostitutes.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Julia Roberts was torn apart for this when the film came out.
  • Parental Incest: It's implied that Mary's father sexually abused her when she was a girl, so she understandably wants nothing to do with him later in life, even when he says he's dying of cancer.
  • Perspective Flip: The story twists the Jekyll and Hyde narrative so that it's told entirely from the perspective of Mary and the other servants, who have no clue as to the true nature of Hyde.
  • Pretty Boy: Hyde, in contrast to his original monstrous description; he's a younger and more energetic version of Jekyll, with long dark hair and blue eyes.
  • Sailor Earth: Mary herself is one. In the original novel only Jekyll's butler was named, so it was of course very easy for Valerie Martin to insert Mary into the story.
  • Scar Survey: The good doctor examining Mary's scars, in a non-bedroom variant, though it's nevertheless sexually charged.
  • Scenery Porn: Completely inverted. Numerous shots of dreary streets and dingy places, but lit and framed in nice ways.
  • Shirtless Scene: Jekyll and Hyde towards the end, in order to show off the gruesome transformation as one changes into the other.
  • Shout-Out: To Dangerous Liaisons, starred both by Malkovich (Jekyll/Hyde) and Glenn Close (Mrs. Farraday). Also, same director and screenwriter.
  • Shrinking Violet: Mary hardly dares to stutter some conversation, as her years in service have emphasised the necessity to keep her head down and call no attention to herself.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Mary's hair comes out of its bun when Hyde attacks her in the lab.
  • Softspoken Sadist: Mary's father, seen in flashbacks, has a rather unassuming voice.
  • Truer to the Text: The film is more faithful to the original novel than a lot of other adaptations (obviously besides Mary as a POV character).
  • "What Now?" Ending: After Jekyll/Hyde die Mary walks out of Jekyll's house, presumably to find another position, uncertain of her future now.
  • Whoopi Epiphany Speech: Mary is the poor lower class Irish maid - who says to Jekyll that she'll no longer care what the world thinks of him.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Rats in Mary's case. She also confesses she's terrified of having bad dreams.
  • You Dirty Rat!: Mary is terrified of rats, so her father would punish her by locking her under the stairs with a rat in a sack that would inevitably bite its way free.