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Did you ever wonder what The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde would be like if Jekyll, Hyde or both of them had a woman in their lives?
Well clearly someone wondered, because Mary Reilly is all about 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 suspension of disbelief replacement for the audience, since by now everyone and his grandmother knows the doctor's little secret. Despite having John Malkovich as both Jekyll and Hyde and Julia Roberts as Mary, the film didn't do too well at the box office, aided by the general lack of publicity before the film's opening. The book was quite good, though.
The film starts with Mary and Jekyll gradually growing closer despite their social stations, as Mary unbends to him and tells him how her father used to beat her for breaking cups and locked her in a cupboard under the stairs with rats. Happy days. Of course such happiness cannot last, as the doctor announces that he plans to have a new assistant. Of course the audience knows where this is heading, but the staff are naturally curious about this new man, especially since they never seem to be able to catch a glimpse of him.
- Abusive Parents: Mary's father whipped her with his belt for breaking a cup once. 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.
- 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.
- Anticlimax: Much like in the book, Hyde commits suicide.
- Beauty Inversion: Julia Roberts bypasses Hollywood Homely straight away to look quite believable as a dowdy and repressed scullery maid.
- Bishonen: Hyde, in contrast to his original monstrous description.
- 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.
- Costume Porn: Mrs Farraday's costumes. These are in direct contrast to the plain and dowdy clothes that the servants wear.
- Dull Surprise: Mary most of the time, although she does liven up a tad at the end.
- Empathic Environment: The growing flowerbeds in the kitchen garden represent the growing relationship between Mary and the doctor.
- Fake Nationality: American Julia Roberts as the Irish Mary. Also American Glenn Close as Mrs Farraday.
- Fanfic: A very blatant one.
- The Film of the Book: Based on a 1990 novel by Valerie Martin.
- Good Scars Bad Scars: Mary's scars are on the hands and around the neck but they are easily covered up by her clothes and her face is untouched.
- Gory Discretion Shot: We never actually see Mary's father whipping her or the rat biting her but Mary's scars speak for themselves.
- Heroes Want Redheads: Jekyll/Hyde to Mary.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Lucien a.k.a. Tony Blair is a footman.
- 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: See And I Must Scream above. Also Mary's mother's landlord stuffed the mother's body into a wardrobe since there was such a high demand for her room.
- Letting Her Hair Down: Mary is always shown at her most vulnerable with her hair down.
- 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.
- One-Scene Wonder: Glenn Close actually has about three scenes, but you can tell she has great fun in bringing her character (the madam of a brothel) to life.
- Perspective Flip
- Power Blonde: Mrs Farraday, the madam of a brothel.
- 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.
- 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.
- Slipknot Ponytail: Mary's hair comes out of its bun when Hyde attacks her in the lab.
- 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.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Rats in Mary's case. She also confesses she's terrified of having bad dreams.
- X Meets Y: Pretty much Jane Eyre meets Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.