REVIEWED BYAshwini Vethakan
This year has proven to be one of adaptations with countless directors looking for inspiration through the pages of a novel; and Ben Wheatley’s Rebecca is his attempt at looking for awe-inspiring content.
However, this Netflix remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic movie is what most would deem as unnecessary. Now don’t get me wrong, the cast is wonderful and extremely talented. But despite its colourful names (and Armie Hammer’s gaudy mustard coloured suit), the film is one of those prudently budgeted affairs that happens to lack ‘something.’
And no matter how many times you watch it, you can’t really pinpoint exactly when the whole storyline starts going downhill.
For those of you who didn’t catch the 1940s Oscar winning version or haven’t read Daphne du Maurier’s book, Rebecca narrates the story of one woman’s quest for love and a home.
We watch a young, rather naive and unnamed personal maid (or companion, as she calls herself) of a wealthy lady who is visiting Monte Carlo, befriend a brooding widower named Maxim de Winter.
Their friendship soon morphs into one of those whirlwind romances that you really only read about in a good book! From secret rendezvous that lead into an impromptu marriage, this young woman eventually discovers the dark secrets that lurk around her new husband and his family’s home Manderlay.
So with the head maid out for blood and her new husband harbouring a dangerous secret of his own, Lily James’ character soon realises that she is in fact in competition with the dead.
The new Mrs. De Winter becomes overwhelmed and haunted by the shadow of Rebecca, continually questioning whether she’s good enough for Maxim and if she will ever live up to Rebecca’s legacy.
As far as the movie’s lead protagonists go, director Wheatley does capitalise on the heat between them. With Lily’s big innocent eyes and warm smile, and Hammer’s dreamy, mysterious and smouldering intensity, they do just fine.
But there’s no doubt that it is Kristin Scott Thomas’ portrayal of Mrs. Danvers (the late Mrs. De Winter’s handmaid) that steals the show. Her intense glares and creepy ability to pop out of the shadows – literally! – not to mention her almost deranged love for her former employer is what keep the story alive.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a well-favoured undertaking with plenty of old-fashioned allure especially in contrast to Hitchcock’s original black and white cinematography. And it’s nice to see how this new film boldly embraces colour and a sense of fashion that is very stylish.
But unfortunately, that’s really where the praise ends.
The tone and shape of the plot randomly change – rather dramatically, if we may add – after a dangerous secret about Rebecca is revealed. And instead of a suspenseful thriller, the film turns into a somewhat dry and flat courtroom drama focussing on Maxim and a new set of problems, rather than following the distressed wife we have come to know and feel we can relate to.
All in all, we’d say Rebecca is a good movie for those nights when you want to watch some mindless TV. It’s really nothing special… but at least there’s some good eye candy with broody Armie Hammer!