REBECCA. (2020) DIRECTED BY BEN WHEATLEY. BASED ON THE 1938 NOVEL BY DAPHNE DU MAURIER.
STARRING LILY JAMES, ARMIE HAMMER, KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS, KEELEY HAWES, ANN DOWD AND JANE LAPOTAIRE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I’m not crazy about this re-make, to be totally honest with you. Let’s get something clear from the start. It could never have hoped to rival the original 1940 movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier as the bride and groom respectively.
That original film is a masterpiece of gothic romantic horror and mystery combined, with superb acting, tension building and wildly beautiful Cornish scenery. It was one of Hitchcock’s finest films, and probably Joan Fontaine’s best performance ever.
She has a genuinely believable air of naivete and gullibility about her that makes us really see her as the frightened Mrs. de Winter Mark Two who doesn’t come close to her predecessor for sophistication and worldly-wise confidence, but that’s exactly why she appeals to tormented widower Maxim de Winter.
Where was I? Oh yes. Harrumph. This re-make was never going to be fit to polish the boots of the original, but that’s okay. As long as it showed us something a bit different in it, we’d be okay with it, or as long as it presented some aspect of the original in a new light, say.
But it just plods along really, in a rather dull and pedestrian fashion, changing a few things here and there for the sake of change, and because it’s change for the sake of change, it kind of comes across as annoying and superfluous.
The handsome and muscular Armie Hammer is a bit wooden as the millionaire husband, and Lily James is whingy and irritating as the gauche, lower-class bride he brings to Manderley on the Cornish coast, a year or so after the death of his wife Rebecca. We know the plot inside-out by now.
The new Mrs. de Winter sees the deceased Rebecca’s stamp of ownership all over Manderley and her new husband, Maxim de Winter. Mrs. Danvers, Manderley’s austere, forbidding housekeeper, is still devoted to her now-dead mistress, having known her from a child, and she takes every opportunity to rub the new bride’s face in the fact that she isn’t a patch on Rebecca and never will be, so she might as well kill herself… Good old Danny, always looking on the bright side!
Socially, a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon yawns fearfully between Maxim and Wife Number Two. He lives in a fabulous mansion on inherited wealth and she is an orphan, reduced to providing companionship to sour, embittered old biddies whose glory days are long behind them. Maxim and his bride are sexually attracted to each other, at least, but their sex scenes are far from electrifying, sadly, more like a damp squib.
All the main checkpoints are still here. The dreadful Mrs. Van Hopper, for whom the nameless bride is ‘a friend of the bosom.’ The old boathouse, and the crazy old man who says, ‘she’s gorn, isn’t she, into the sea? She won’t come back no more.’
The ill-fated costume ball, in which the bride plays right into the hands of Mrs. Danvers and wears a costume guaranteed to repulse Maxim, not delight him. The shipwreck with the decomposed corpse on board. The coroner’s inquest. The fire, but the person you think should die in it doesn’t die in it. They have something else in mind for themselves as a grand finale. Sorry, that’s a spoiler.
We really miss the smooth, suave, sardonically self-serving Jack Favell as played by George Sanders here. We miss his eccentric, half-hopping entrance through an open window, the way he taps his cigarette on the case before lighting up, and the air of sleazy sexuality that surrounds him permanently and that allows him to have a forbidden love affair with his beloved cousin, Rebecca, who, by all accounts, what quite a wee goer in her day.
Sam Riley as Jack Favell in the 2020 adaptation might cut it in a modern version of UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS or DOWNTON ABBEY, but is somewhat lacking in the sex appeal needed to produce a good performance as the louche Favell.
The one thing that’s completely new- and good!- is the addition of veteran British actress Jane Lapotaire (THE ASPHYX, LADY JANE) as Maxim and Beatrice de Winter’s Aged Grandmother. She shames the new bride most dreadfully by telling her stridently, more than once, that she’s ‘not Rebecca!’ The very idea that she could be the mistress of the house! The Aged Crone cackles mirthlessly at the notion.
There’s some lovely scenery and settings in the film, but it’s still a cheap, clunky imitation of one of the best mystery movies ever made. Watch it if you like out of curiosity, or if you like Armie Hammer (I do!) or nice views of the cliffs and the sea, but there’s not a lot else here to sea, I mean, to see, to be quite blunt. I don’t like being so negative about a film but I think that here we have a distinct case of all style and no substance. Sorry…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
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