28 February 2006 | MarieGabrielle
This film gets better as you watch it
Initially, I stayed away from this movie as it received merciless reviews. The fact that Julia Roberts was in it also was another obstacle. Yet as other reviewers have mentioned, she actually gives a good performance. John Malkovich is excellent as the tormented Jekyll/Hyde character.
The cinematography and moods are haunting. One feels they are actually re-living the Victorian era, where the servants woke up at 4AM to complete their drudgery. The kitchen conjures up the stark realities of survival, the eel that is chopped up for dinner (while alive) Mary Reilly turns white as a sheet as she sees the animal die. I actually began to appreciate Ms. Roberts' performances more after this film (also in films like "Mona Lisa Smile", she projects a certain believability; is not just a physical presence). At one point, there is a most effective scene wherein Roberts must see to her mother's burial, and goes to the tenement to make arrangements. The landlord has placed her mother's body in a damp cellar closet, saying she is "most comfortable" as he hands her one shilling, the only money Roberts will inherit. Roberts then says; ..."ä poor wage for a lifetime of drudgery"... We are reminded of the workhouses of Dickens, and the rigid class structures which she must survive...
While the dialect is at times choppy, she is believable as an Irish maid; and the supporting cast also lends credence to this story. Malkovich varies his performance between Jekyll/Hyde, and it is effective and visceral.
If you initially avoided this film, I would highly recommend seeing it now. The atmosphere and music are haunting and sad. 9/10