- Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristen Scott Thomas, Keeley Hawes
- Written by
- Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse (Screenplay). Daphne Du Maurier (Novel)
- Directed by
- Ben Wheatley
- Run Time
- 2h 1min
- Release date
- October 21st, 2020
When the name Ben Wheatley comes up you might conjure up imagines of slick yet unconventional action films like Free Fire and Kill List. He’s not the guy you would think would be behind the camera for a retelling of Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 classic book Rebecca. Wheatley though is a prolific filmmaker and more than up the task to follow the master of suspense and put his own stamp on this story. We are talking about Rebecca, the only film that Hitchcock won an Oscar for, so the bar is set high, but Wheatley has everything he needs to succeed, or so it appears.
An unnamed narrator ( Lily James) is vacationing with her employer Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd) in Monte Carlo. As Mrs. Van Hopper is having a grand old time, she hears the handsome Mr. Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) is to be staying at their hotel and sends her employee to arrange that she sits near him. In failing to do Mrs. Van Hopper’s request, she catches the eye of Mr. de Winter and is soon being sent notes where they can meet and spend the day together. Spend enough time with someone and marriage can’t be far, and that is exactly what happens and she becomes the new Mrs. de Winter. The previous Mrs. De Winter, or Rebecca as she is so often called, died suddenly and is not discussed. When she is brought to her new home she is introduced to Mrs. Danvers (Kristen Scott Thomas) and an array of servants and helpers who keep the estate humming along. Rebecca though hangs over everything as the new Mrs. de Winter tries to settle in. Her husband seems to have become distant and more questions than answers come up. All of this leads to things really coming to a head when more light is shed on Rebecca’s disappearance, setting up a mystery that begs to be solved.
Having to follow up Hitchcock can never be a good idea, but I will give Wheatley credit for trying. There is some good things in here, but when it comes to what this film has to live up to, it just falls pretty short. That is not the fault of James and Hammer who have real chemistry together that really adds to everything. And with a powerhouse like Scott Thomas who really has the creepy head-of-the-house mistress down pat while never getting pulled into the campy territory. The film for its first half is building up to something and instead of letting it all explode, it lets a lot of steam off by putting us in the middle of a boring court room drama. The film soars best in the halls of Manderley, the de Winter’s estate, with is beauty, but outside those confines the film feels a little lost. Wheatley and cinematographer Laurie Rose deliver a haunting and beautiful looking film, if only the finished product would have lived up to it. While their goal was to deliver something of their own, what you get is wanting to see a better version which we already have.