Saturday, September 30, 2017

“Mrs. Hyde”– Movie Review


This week at The 55th New York Film Festival, I attended the North American Premiere of the comedy-drama, “Mrs. Hyde”, starring Isabelle Huppert. 


When a high school science teacher suffers an accident which gives her unusual powers, will she be able to control her newfound abilities or will they control her?


Marie Géquil (Huppert) is hated by her students and her colleagues do not seem to hold her in very high esteem either.  As a science teacher at a suburban technical high school, her class treats her with derision.  It seems this woman is far too timid to be taken seriously.  But while teaching is her career, science is her passion; as such, she maintains her own lab on school grounds where she can perform her own experiments in order to better teach her class.  One day in her laboratory, an accident happens where she is apparently electrocuted during a storm.   This permanently transforms her life.

Although neither her husband nor her co-workers notice any change initially, Mrs. Géquil certainly does – and adapting to it is far from easy for her.  As it turns out, she has been imbued with some kind of power – an electrical power, to be precise – which is difficult for her to control, even after she becomes aware that it is now in her possession.  But there is yet another transformation that takes place in Mrs. Géquil and that has to do with her personality.  It seems that she has become more confident, less fearful of her students – and that leads to classes where these young men and women are increasingly engaged and as a result are learning more. 

Mrs. Géquil begins mentoring one of her students – Mallik, a handicapped teenager who just wants to fit in with the other kids, but because of his disability, they are not quite so accepting of him.  Géquil recognizes Mallik is both willing and able to learn, so she conducts extracurricular sessions with him in order to assist the young man with his studies.  But just as Mallik starts to excel in his education, so does  Mrs. Géquil change in her behavior; overnight, her electrical powers transform her into a murderer and when she tries to make Mallik one of her victims, will she succeed or can the police stop her before Mallik loses his life?           


When a director has to explain his movie to a group of people who have just screened it, that does not speak well of the work.  Nevertheless, that is precisely what happened after the showing of “Mrs. Hyde” – but more on that later.   This is something of an oddball film in the sense that it is neither entirely a comedy nor something that fits easily into a horror/science fiction genre.  Also, it is clearly not a strict adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic novel, “The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde” – although that is admittedly what inspired this version of the story. 

In this updated distaff reboot, Mrs. Géquil (Jekyll) is a science teacher in the modern day, who instructs a class of woebegone students who may have some degree of potential.  Here, however, we have more sympathy with her than terror, despite her hideous deeds.  It is obvious that she is not in complete control, despite the actions of the character.  Much like Linda Blair’s portrayal in “The Exorcist”, you root for the defeat of the demon which possesses her rather than rooting against the character herself; that being the case, however, the deaths that occur seem more incidental than intentional. 

Following the screening was a question and answer session with director/writer Serge Bozon and star Isabelle Huppert, as mentioned above.  Since Bozon ate up much of the time clarifying his story for the audience, Huppert, unfortunately, did not get much of an opportunity to answer questions.  She did, however, share that this role was a great challenge for her because it was difficult for her to memorize her lines; since her character is a science teacher and she has precious little knowledge of the subject, much of the technical language was hard to internalize. 

Madame Hyde (2017) on IMDb


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