Picks and Pans Review: Mary Reilly
Revisionist and oh-so-politically correct, this horror film tells the tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the point of view of Jekyll's innocent young Irish housemaid. Talk about being way beside the point. This is like telling Sense and Sensibility from the viewpoint of Colonel Brandon.
Roberts, glammed down but still the hottest thing to hit the scullery since Kim Novak played Moll Flanders, is the title character. Malkovich, all aflutter with twitches and poses, as usual, is the good-bad doctor. Adapting Valerie Martin's 1990 novel, screenwriter Christopher Hampton perverts Robert Louis Stevenson's meditation on evil into a routine romance. The question no longer is how depraved Jekyll has become but how hunky.
All the anguishing is seen from the knuckle-gnawing viewpoint of Roberts, whose capricious accent is more Georgia drawl than Irish brogue. Hampton also dwells on the relatively trivial travails of Roberts' tortured inner world. She has nightmares about her abused childhood. (Alcoholic daddy Gambon once locked her in a closet with a bag of rats.) Cole, Jekyll's officious butler, browbeats her mercilessly. She's afraid of the live eels the cook has in the kitchen.
While Roberts and Malkovich generate some sexual tension, it ultimately fizzles, and director Stephen Frears shows only one transformation scene. Too bad that what is supposed to be a stunning climax only reminds one of The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant. (R)