Rebecca: Netflix Film Review

Rebecca

Daphne du Maurier‘s famed 1938 Gothic novel Rebecca has been adapted for the screen many times, most notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, and now Ben Wheatley tries to put his own spin on the well-known story in this latest adaptation for Netflix.

The film begins in Monte Carlo, with the unnamed narrator (played by Lily James) serving as a companion/assistant to the rich Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd). Van Hopper fancies the wealthy widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) and sees herself as the next lady of Manderley, his sprawling estate on the English coast, but he falls for her companion instead. After a brief courtship, the duo gets married and head home. The new Mrs. de Winter realises that Manderley is haunted by the memory of his first wife Rebecca, who died a year before, and the sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas) likes to make sure she never escapes Rebecca’s shadow.

I was really surprised when Wheatley signed up for this. He has directed a novel adaptation before (with High-Rise) but that was still quite oddball, quirky and indie, so I wouldn’t have expected a new version of Rebecca – a Gothic romance thriller which is incredibly well-known – would have appealed to him as there is little room to put his own stamp on it. And there isn’t much sign of him here at all – Rebecca (adapted here by Jane Goldman) is classic, inoffensive, mainstream, and very loyal to the novel. It’s miles away from Free Fire, that’s for sure. And I LOVED Free Fire.

Wheatley has reunited with his Free Fire co-star Hammer for Rebecca and I was very impressed with his convincing British accent. He has such a distinct voice I just assumed it wouldn’t be good or consistent or it would have felt put-on, but no, it was a decent, natural-sounding British accent. He fits the bill as Maxim, as does James as the lead. She does well going from naive and timid in the beginning to strong and assertive nearer the end, but this isn’t one of her more impressive performances. The star of the show is, of course, Scott Thomas as the cold and calculating Mrs. Danvers, who had been devoted to Rebecca since she was a child and cannot stand this new replacement. She was perfectly cast in the role. There is also great support from Sam Riley as Rebecca’s cousin Jack Favell, Keeley Hawes as Maxim’s sister, and Tom Goodman-Hill as his estate manager Frank.

I’m assuming this is designed to entertain a new generation that is less familiar with du Maurier’s work, as I’m damn sure that knowing the ending will remove any sense of intrigue or excitement watching this. I must admit that I have neither read the novel nor watched an adaptation, so I cannot say if it brings anything fresh to the table compared with its predecessors, but I can give a newcomer’s perspective. Some revelations seemed obvious to me, while others – particularly about Rebecca’s past – took me by surprise. I was interested watching the twists and turns play out but I wouldn’t go as far to say I was gripped or hooked. I started to get into it more towards the end and then it was all over!

Rebecca is a beautiful film to look at, with stunning European locations, English coastline landscapes and costumes, but it didn’t make me feel very much.

In selected cinemas from Friday 16th October and on Netflix from 21st October

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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