- Alternate Character Interpretation: It's left open but it's possible Mary's father raped her or at least molested her in some way. Her second flashback of him has the father inviting her towards him saying "what am I going to do with you?" - immediately cutting to the adult Mary crying in her sleep. At the funeral he says "we had some good times", which could be a lecherous taunt. But then again, there's no reason to think it never went further than whipping or locking her in the cupboard with a rat.
- Critical Backlash: The film was not well-received upon release, being viewed as boring or dour. It's essentially a Gothic Melodrama in the same lines as Rebecca or Gaslight, and such films were very uncommon in the 90s. Empire even listed it on "50 Films That Should Never Have Been Made". Reception to it seems to be a little more positive - Roger Ebert even gave it three stars - and if you overlook Julia Roberts's attempt at an Irish accent then it's a fine different spin on the Jekyll and Hyde story.
- Ham and Cheese: Glenn Close is incredibly lively as Mrs Farraday - in stark contrast to the more subdued performances from the others.
- Heartwarming Moments:
- Early on, Mary is attacked by Mr Poole the butler for how long she was in Jekyll's office. Mary makes up a story that they talked about doing something with the garden. Poole later mentions this in front of Jekyll who doesn't miss a beat and plays along, also asking Mary to "remind" him their decision.
- The final line between Mary and Jekyll before he succumbs to his wounds - "you said you no longer cared what the world thought of you, and nor shall I", followed by her lying next to him under the blanket.
- Hilarious in Hindsight: It's impossible to look at Glenn Close's portrayal of Mrs Farraday and not think of how she played Cruella De Ville in 101 Dalmatians (1996) the same year.
- It Was His Sled: The film exploits this for Dramatic Irony - the audience knows Jekyll and Hyde are the same person (John Malkovich plays both, with only small differences to suggest Hyde is just a relative) but Mary does not.
- There's points where Mary quotes word for word what Mrs Farraday asked her to tell the doctor. Sure it's what she would do, but after the horrific scene in the brothel, Mary quoting the "linen she could not clean" feels a bit repetitive.
- When Mrs Farraday arrives at Jekyll's house and he offers her a drink - "it won't take me a moment to prepare it", said with what was meant to be an intensity that ends up looking like he's constipated. He looks so serious as if the audience wouldn't guess that something bad is about to happen.
- Never Live It Down: Julia Roberts's Irish accent is often mocked. To some, that's the only thing the film is remembered for.
- Nightmare Fuel:
- Hyde's whispered "Mary Reilly" used as the tagline for most of the trailers.
- Mary's father, period, but especially the quiet, almost jocular way he talks to her when he's about to torture her or worse.
- Not to mention when Hyde runs into that little girl on the street and just stamps her to death!
- The death of Sir Danvers. Jesus! Mary may have been spared from seeing it, but the audience wasn't. The remains of his cane say it all.
- One-Scene Wonder:
- Squick: The scene in the slaughter houses. Also that little girl in the brothel. And the room in the brothel. Actually, quite a few scenes in the film are comprised of this.
- Tear Jerker:
"Poor wages for a lifetime of drudgery."
- The death of Mary's mother. Her body is left in a wardrobe downstairs because there's such demand for a vacant room. Her belongings were all sold to cover her unpaid rent costs, and Mary is given the leftover change.
- At the funeral, Mary comes face to face with her father. In contrast to the cruel way he treated her as a child, he looks like he wants to make amends with her (perhaps having a Heel Realization when Mary was gone). Mary of course will have none of this and runs away, while he calls after her "I'm your father!"
- Overall the film does not hold back with how grim things could be for the lower classes in Victorian times. There's the story of a kitchen maid who was regularly raped by the master only to be gotten rid of when she fell pregnant, the above-mentioned fate of Mary's mother, the dismissive way she is treated by everyone except Jekyll and how empty their lives are outside of their work.
- Vindicated by History: A flop with lukewarm reception from critics in the 90s. These days considered a very underrated horror film. While Julia Roberts was mocked for her accent at the time, years later viewers can appreciate her attempts at a different character from her usual romantic comedy good girls. And there's the fact that - even with the love story between Jekyll and Mary - it's still very faithful to the original novel.
- Visual Effects of Awesome: The transformation from Hyde into Jekyll is quite impressive - and suitably horrifying.
- WTH, Casting Agency?:
- Julia Roberts as a Victorian chambermaid was a headscratcher. This was before her Career Resurrection with My Best Friend's Wedding, so she was deliberately trying to do something different. Her accent was suitably poor but the performance itself was fine. She never did a period drama again however.
- John Malkovich as Dr Jekyll is another. While he works better as Mr Hyde, his stoic demeanor as Jekyll leaves a lot to be desired.
YMMV / Mary Reilly