As much a thriller as a psychodrama, Rebecca stands up in revisiting.
Director: Ben Wheatley (High-Rise)
Screenplay: Jane Goldman (Stardust), Joe Shrapnel (Seberg), Anna Waterhouse (Seberg), based on Daphne Du Maurier Novel
Cast: Lily James (Baby Driver), Armie Hammer (Call Me by Your Name)
Runtime: 2h 1 min
By: John DeSando
When you come after Daphne Du Maurier and Alfred Hitchcock in the classics’ arena, you need to be faithful to the canon and yet offer something new. Director Ben Wheatley does a successful job with the former and not so much the latter.
An unidentified young woman (Lily James, later to become Mrs. Maxim Manderley) meets eligible Maxim (Armie Hammer) in Monte Carlo and subsequently goes with him to his notable Brit estate, Manderley. The torture she goes through as she finds out the fate of his first wife, Rebecca, pretty much follows the novel and Hitch.
Although the principals are attractive enough, they seem to be held back ever so slightly by the film’s provenance or direction or both. However, the cinematography is lush and the costumes period friendly, and the film gives plenty of room for the psychodrama Du Maurier and Hitch relished. James is effective as a vulnerable neophyte in society and love, and Hammer projects a privileged glamour while holding heavy memories.
Arguably, this story is a feminist work that glosses the domination of men over women. Although the interpretation may not be as applicable now as it was in the 30’s, when Maxim controls his second wife, we get it.
Rebecca also successfully criticizes the meaning of class divide and marrying out of class. At any rate, here’s a good evening to sit by the fire, sip a cognac, and enjoy your fellow humans making stupid mistakes for love, so relatable.
So Brit, so human. On Netflix.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com