REBECCA is a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s first major American thriller from 1940 (80 years ago! How can that be possible!) and it delivers a great mystery romance thriller.
Wrapped in a huge Netflix budget and bathed in perfectly executed on-location photography, its stunning to look at and difficult to solve.
Lily James (Baby Driver) is a poor young student who has recently lost her parents. She’s found work as a personal assistant to a rude, aging socialite Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd from “Hereditary”) holed up in a stunning Monte Carlo hotel.
The young girl meets incredibly wealthy young widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer, perfectly cast) and they begin a whirlwind romance.
In a matter of weeks, they are married and headed off to Manderly, the generations old de Winter estate on the English cliffs. Massive, imposing and dripping with wealth and privilege, it’s a jarring adjustment for the new Mrs. de Winter.
The estate is run by the terrifying Mrs. Danvers, perfectly embodied by Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient) with all the reserved, puckered tradition that such an estate demands.
Almost immediately, the new Mrs. de Winter realizes that she is living under the incredible weight and shadow of the former Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca. The more she learns of the former lady of the estate, the more intimidated she becomes.
Soon, her husband seems to be disturbed by her behavior and she finds herself more isolated and less certain about the romance to date.
Is there a true presence at Manderly? Is Rebecca still there in some form?
Is there more to her husband’s past life than she wants to know?
Who is the mysterious Jack Flavell who turns up with stories of his own about how Rebecca died?
The film is interestingly cast, with newcomers Bryony Miller as Clarice and Ashley Reynolds as Robert standing out among the massive staff of Manderly. They are different looking people, or do they just standout because they are less than perfect among the beautiful people that populate the world of de Winter?
Just as in Hitchcock’s original and the Daphne de Maurier novel on which it’s based, the new Mrs. de Winter has no name before she marries Max. A faceless person in the crowd, a nobody until she gains status? Interpretations abound.
The photography by Laurie Rose (Peaky Blinders), production design by Sarah Greenwood (Atonement, Beauty and the Beast) and music score by Clint Mansell (Black Swan, Moon) are all great.
I had never seen the echoes between Paul Thomas Anderson’s terrific “The Phantom Thread” and REBECCA, but they are numerous and inspired.
As a huge Hitchcock fan, I am still exploring his earlier films and have not seen his original film. The critics and viewers that have lambasted this update as bringing nothing new to justify its existence. I really enjoyed it, loved unwrapping its secrets and all the conniving motives of some of the key players.
If the ending is morally oblivious in the name of love, it’s also redeeming for all the same reasons.
I’ll give my visit to Manderly a very enjoyable and intriguing A.