It had to end this way. On the fingers of one hand, you can count remakes that made sense, brought something new to the original and turned out to be good standalone films. “Rebekah”, unfortunately, is not one of those.
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Not that Alfred Hitchock’s version of this adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel is absolutely definitive. I never considered the first Hollywood suspense master movie a masterpiece. 1940’s “Rebecca” is a great psychological thriller with a romantic plot, but only, or even, that’s it. Nevertheless, I didn’t see much room to add anything essential in her next incarnation, and unfortunately that was true.
“Rebecca” is the story of a young girl (we do not even find out her name in the film, but she is played by Lily James) who meets a wealthy widower, Maximilian de Winter (Armie Hammer). They both fall in love, and the man decides to propose and bring the newly wed to his Manderley estate. There, however, the girl constantly has to deal with the specter of the former presence of de Winter’s tragically deceased wife.
“Rebecca” is an extraordinary story, which we owe to the literary prototype of Du Meurier, that it is somewhere on the verge of romance, thriller and… ghost stories.
Although we will not see any literal spirit here, both the author of the novel and the authors of the novel, as well as the authors who transfer it to film, try to arrange it all in such a way that the mere memories of Rebecca, the first wife of M. de Winter, which are nurtured by those who live in Manderley, somehow maintain her presence ” alive “.
The director of the new version of the film, Ben Wheatley, also put more emphasis on romance / melodramatic threads, which over time turn into a story about a marriage hell. He did it quite stylishly, because the film looks very pleasing to the eye (beautiful scenes, nice costumes, nice actors in the main roles).
Seemingly everything is in place. And if this is your first time hearing this story, chances are you will be intrigued by Netflix’s Rebecca.
There is something disturbing and sad about it below the surface. But at the same time, Wheatley’s movie is a bit… boring. I don’t expect him to be a worthy successor to Hitchock, but it would be a little better to know the right tension building. It was missing here.
So we get, for the first, considerable length, an act that is a bit bland and mediocre story of the de Winter romance, which suddenly turns into a slightly more mysterious and dark tale. And this tonal change was also not entirely successful for Wheatley. And instead of a solid thriller mixed with a horror movie, we get a strange cloudy romance, which seems to be more about the horror of a failed marriage and trying to meet the impossible demands of a feeling object. In a rather banal form.
With all due respect to Armie Hammer and Lily James, but they are not of the same caliber as Hitchock’s version of Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier.
Plus, they’re not their best creations in their careers. James doesn’t know how to approach his character, and Hammer is simply wooden.
So if you have the opportunity, watch Rebecca from 1940, even if the black and white picture for some reason scares off some of you, it’s still easier to swallow than what Netflix’s movie serves us. Hitchock’s version is simply better, more interesting, more suspenseful and engaging.
However, if you are tempted by the Netflix version due to lack of lacquer, just keep in mind that although it is a rather pleasant film, you are watching a less successful version of this story.