Note: the author of this review watched Rebecca of the house on a digital screen. Before making the decision to see it – or any other movie – in a theater, please consider the health risks involved. Here is a meeting on the subject with scientific experts.
The dreamlike qualities of Daphné du Maurier’s bestseller from the 1930s Rebecca and his famous film adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock are evident even in a basic description of the premise. An unnamed young woman meets an older and recently widowed aristocrat while working as a lady’s companion in Monte Carlo. After two weeks of romance, he marries her and brings her to his estate, Manderley, where an entire wing has been kept in memory of his first wife, Rebecca. From the start, we know Manderley is gone; it’s a ruin that haunts the heroine as she begins to tell the story.
There’s an eventual twist (several, in fact) that turns this perfectly distilled Gothic fairy tale into a more conventional piece of early 20th-century suspense, complete with incriminating notes, doctors, and blackmail. But the arc remains that of a lost innocence, beginning in the romantic fantasy and ending deep in the penchant of his time for Freud. Hitchcock made it his first major morbid obsession-themed work (and the only one of his films to win an Oscar for Best Picture). Now English director Ben Wheatley has freed it from these pesky ambiguities and turned it into a silly, leaden drama.
This Rebecca is billed as a new adaptation of the novel, but since the Hitchcock version is largely faithful to du Maurier, much of it plays out as a scene-by-scene remake, with tweaks and additions to account for today’s seemingly less adventurous tastes. hui in the old black house stories. The first obvious change is that the unnamed supernatural protagonist (Lily James) and widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) are now basically the same age (although Hammer was actually older than Laurence Olivier when he played the role. in the Hitchcock version.).
Their courtship displays more or less as before. They meet at a hotel while she is traveling with her employer, the insufferable grande dame Ms. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd). Lunch in the hotel restaurant soon turns into daily sightseeing excursions in Maxim’s Bentley. Although his wife has been dead for less than a year, Maxim offers, and after an off-screen honeymoon, to bring his new wife to Manderley. There, she soon meets the famous villain of the story, the manipulative head housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (an icy Kristin Scott Thomas), who remains loyal to the former mistress of the house.
Callbacks of the beautiful and refined Rebecca seem to follow the second Mrs. de Winter (the only name ever given to the protagonist). In an effort to distinguish itself from previous releases – which include the Hitchcock movie, two TV mini-series and du Maurier’s own stage adaptation – this Rebecca dressed her characters up to 1930s fashion; Manderley’s West Wing, once spider web, is now immaculately clean and Art Deco. At one point, the heroine watches Maxim sleepwalking through her doors. The sub-texts are now literal, which means that there are no sub-texts at all.
Nevertheless, the basic structure of the story is intact; some of his strangeness even manages to survive Wheatley’s confused and unfocused leadership. The filmmaker (who is best known for his grotesque tastes Kill list, Free fire, and A field in England) can’t decide if he’s making an anonymous and cheesy prestige film or if he’s remaking both simultaneously Wicker man and The bitter tears of Petra Von Kant. While its stylized mirror staging of the main character’s interactions with Ms. Danvers and the random inclusion of songs by jazzy late ’60s and early’ 70s folk-rock group Pentangle occasionally pierces decorum, the only really surprising thing Rebecca That’s how tame it is, even compared to an adaptation that had to change a major plot point to conform to the production code.
The screenplay (by Jane Goldman, Anna Waterhouse, and Joe Shrapnel) goes to great lengths to neutralize the characters’ psychosexual complexes, and given that these complexes are the gist of the story, the film inevitably falls into inconsistency. once the question of knowing has arrived to Rebecca is stated aloud. While Scott Thomas, Dowd, and Sam Riley (as Rebecca’s sleazy cousin, Jack Favell) play fun one-note roles, James and Hammer are largely tasked with looking miserable in nice clothes. Anyone who manages to invest in these characters will be rewarded with a blatant happy ending that has been nailed to the fiery conclusion – which, like everything else, has been twisted by the unambiguous. Manderley is partly a state of mind. In this Rebecca, this state is an exasperating annoyance.