(director: Ben Wheatley; screenwriters: novel by Daphne Du Maurier, Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse; cinematographer: Laurie Rose; editor: Jonathan Amos; music: Clint Mansell; cast: Lily James (Mrs. de Winter), Armie Hammer (Maxim de Winter), Kristin Scott Thomas (Mrs. Danvers), Sam Riley (Jack Favell), Ann Dowd (Mrs. Van Hopper), Tom Goodman-Hill (Frank Crawley), Keeley Hawes (Beatrice), Jacques Bouanich (Taxi Driver), John Hollingworth (Giles); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Raphaël Benoliel, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park; Netflix; 2020)
“It boggles my mind why this remake was made.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Ben Wheatley (“Free Fire”/”High Rise”) films a new version of Hitchcock’s Oscar-winning 1940 original version of Rebecca, one that starred Laurence Olivier as the wealthy widower obsessing over the memory of his dead wife Rebecca. She died when her boat sunk off the coast near her house. This film is also based on the 1938 best-selling mystery book by Daphne du Maurier. Needless to say this version pales considerably when compared, especially since this film’s Max de Winter, played by Armie Hammer, is certainly no Olivier, but someone miscast and this director is certainly no Hitchcock. It boggles my mind why this remake was made. The writers challenged by this thankless task are Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse. They can only make the brooding psychological drama, a film about class, into a visually pleasing film.
The opening has Max de Winter (Armie Hammer) telling us “Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”
The film flashbacks to 1938 in Monte Carlo, where a naïve, impressionable, mousy, unnamed young woman (Lily James), is a paid traveling companion to the snooty social-climbing Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd). At the resort she attracts the aristocratic Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), a widower, still grieving after the loss of his wife Rebecca six months earlier. In due time she becomes his bride and after the honeymoon abroad is ushered back to hubby’s ancestral Cornish home of Manderley. Once there, the sprawling place with many servants appears as a shrine to his first wife, Rebecca. The new wife is terrified of the place and especially of the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), who looked up with reverence to Rebecca. In the first version, there was only a hint of a lesbian relationship. Here things are not left so subtle. Also menacing secrets are revealed that force a confrontation between the ladies.
The brooding hubby is still in play, but the gothic designs of mystery, suspense and romance in the plot fail to move the plodding story the way it should have, leaving you occupied with nothing much to tune into except what’s superficial. This update to a film from over eighty years ago, only seems like second-rate melodrama.
REVIEWED ON 11/18/2020 GRADE: C-