Review: Rebecca (2020)

Rebecca (2020)

Directed by: Ben Wheatley | 121 minutes | drama, thriller, romance | Actors: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ann Dowd, Pippa Winslow, Lucy Russell, Bruno Paviot, Tom Hudson, Jeff Rawle, Ashleigh Reynolds, Bryony Miller, Tom Goodman-Hill, Ben Crompton, John Hollingworth, Keeley Hawes, Jane Lapotaire, Sam Riley

In the 1930s, Monaco was already a popular place for wealthy cosmopolitans. They met on the beach and on the hotel terraces, at a cocktail and during lunch. It is there that the troubled widower Maxim de Winter meets an attractive woman, the young lady companion of the wealthy Mrs. Van Hopper. The attraction is mutual, a marriage soon follows, after which the couple travels to the Winters Manderley estate. But there’s a rival waiting. Not a flesh-and-blood person, but the vivid memory of Winters’s first wife, who died. Who was, of course, called Rebecca.

This is the synopsis of ‘Rebecca’, a novel by Daphne du Maurier from 1938 that has been made into a film several times. With ‘Rebecca’ we have a film that can neither succeed nor fail. The fact that the film never rises above itself is due to Alfred Hitchcock and his Oscar-winning adaptation from 1940. The fact that the film cannot fail is due to the rock-solid story. Book and film are a rare combination of drama, romance, mystery and crime.

The most special thing about the plot is its elusiveness. Once the new bride arrives at Manderley, strange and frightening things happen, but we can never place those events. So, like our heroine, we walk anxiously and confusedly through the halls, corridors and rooms of the squeaky and creaky mansion. No startle effects, no blood, no screams, just threat, threat and threat.

That’s all you need for the thrills, while lovers of old-world grandeur can indulge in pre-war Monaco. For lovers of good-looking romance, we have the beautiful Lily James and the equally beautiful Armie Hammer as the young couple. In case we’re bored, there’s Kristin Scott Thomas as the terrifying Mrs. Danvers, Manderley’s housekeeper.

In short, a fine film, but one that suffers from the shadow of its great predecessor and the numerous films it inspired. That makes this late ‘Rebecca’ little more than a nice repetition exercise. Although there is little to criticize about the film, it does not excel at anything. Solid entertainment for a rain-soaked December afternoon, when Hitchcock’s classic is nowhere else to stream.

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