living graves of murder…

Though I was slightly scared away from this film due to it starring Julia Roberts, we nonetheless decided on Mary Reilly, the Stephen Frears film about a maid who falls for both Dr Jeckyl and Mister Hyde, and gets involved much deeper than she should. Julia Roberts actually seems alright in this role, her strange appearance and paleness worked fine for me as a waifish servant girl. I don’t know if she is always like that, as I don’t recall seeing her in a movie before, but it worked out here. John Malkovich, as the doctor/mister, does a great job in the dual role and there are even some small appearances of Michael Gambon.

Mary is the new scullery maid at the residence of Dr Jeckyl, a no longer practicing physician who has a large, elaborate laboratory across the way in which he engages in some kind of experiments. When he announces that Edward Hyde, his new assistant, should have the run of the house, things start getting weird and Mary Reilly puts herself right in the middle of it. Hyde is an energetic, confident, intimidating and wild fellow, who is not shy in his interest in Mary and seems to enjoy a little ladykilling on the side. It was a different take on Mister Hyde than I’ve seen before, he seemed more like a troublesome regular guy, no hunchbacked monster here.

One odd thing, for a movie about a violent serial killer, is that it shows virtually no human carnage, mainly just some bloody afterwards (well, and one loose head). Of course, the film is through the eyes of Mary Reilly, who is not present for any of these incidents, so that makes sense. But for some reason, the movie seems to go out of its way to identify Mary as squeamish by showing her negative reactions to lots of animal carnage, from the slaughter of an eel to the cleaning out of a cow and all sorts in between. Since her squeamishness seems to have no function to the plot, one cannot help but wonder why they focus so much on the slaughtered animals and her reactions to them, it seems like the movie is replacing the human victims with animal ones. For those of us who see no moral difference between killing animals and people, it seems to be serving as an allegory about the killing of animals! Coupled with the Dr Jeckyl/Mr Hyde situation, it seems to be using the dual nature of the prim and proper kindly Doctor and the cruel, conscious and murdering Mr Hyde to express the human duality of being a good, kind and thoughtful person, yet one who daily engages in lethal involvement with other animals, all while acting oblivious to the moral reality of such activity.

But I digress… I liked the movie all right, it was quiet and pleasant to watch… taking place in a foggy land and a pleasant house and with a strange walkway in the lab that I found strangely fascinating. The down point comes with the long awaited transformation from Hyde to Jeckyl, not only was it not at all what I would have expected, it was a bit too, um, dumb. A totally unnecessary effect that seems to have dumbed down the entirety of the movie.

Oh, and like another recent selection, it features rats.


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