Title – Rebecca (2020)
Director – Ben Wheatley (Free Fire)
Cast – Armie Hammer, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ann Dowd, Sam Riley
Plot – The naïve and newly minted Mrs. de Winter (James) finds her marriage to the rich Maxim (Hammer) haunted by the death of his past wife and the ever present eye of his housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Thomas).
“His wife died last year, and he’s in dire need of company”
Review by Eddie on 26/10/2020
Since announcing himself with the horror treat that was Kill List all the way back in 2011, English director Ben Wheatley has struggled to recapture the goodness that was found in his breakout cult hit with films that offer tantalizing glimpses into the director that could be but never form into the cohesive whole that would undeniably encase the talented artist into the top line of modern day auteurs.
Based on both the classic Daphne Du Maurier novel and the renowned Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name, Wheatley’s reimagining of gothic thriller Rebecca seemed like an intriguing choice for the director who has previously steered very clear from more mainstream content and while its great to see Wheatley hold back from his usual gratuitous violence and dark humor, this pretty looking Netflix period piece may look the part but its a cold and drab affair in most instances, making one wonder why exactly Wheatley and his creative team felt the need to give Rebecca a fresh coat of paint at all.
Teaming up beautiful stars Armie Hammer and Lily James to play the titular Mr and Mrs de Winter, things start off well enough as the two begin a courtship that leads to a quickfire marriage and a rushing back to Hammer’s Maxim’s lavish manner in England that is run by Kristin Scott Thomas’s scheming Mrs. Danvers in the wake of Maxim’s trauma due to the loss of his previous wife Rebecca, but Wheatley’s film never finds a comfortable groove as it fails to capture its romance angle or its mystery/thriller angles and instead gets lost in a lot of eye pleasing and solid production values but not a whole lot of anything else.
For such a horror obsessed director, its curious that Wheatley wasn’t able to instill his own brand of devilishly inventive scares or chills into Du Maurier’s oft-imitated tale as Rebecca for the most part remains thrill free throughout with the scariest thing throughout some odd sleepwalking and some creepy stares.
Without these chills and thrills Hammer and James have a lot of work to do as the seemingly mismatched couple and the two charismatic performers aren’t able to elevate proceedings a whole lot with the initial wins they have as head over heels lovers quickly giving way to a hum-drum series of procedurals that wont surprise or entertain anyone that’s ever seen or read a tale of this ilk before and at days end, we come to an overarching sense that we just don’t care enough about these two characters as Rebecca draws slowly towards its end game.
Final Say –
A pretty to look at but otherwise lifeless redo of the Rebecca tale, Ben Wheatley once more fails to capture the magic of his early career work in what is another disappointment in his growing collection of mid to low-tier of films.
2 Oyster breakfasts out of 5
Great review! I really enjoyed reading it. As they announced Rebecca – I knew it was going to be a disaster. This is such a nuanced book and so much hinges on certain horrific realisations by the characters. I don’t want to sound pedantic or “old-fashioned”, but only Hitchcock possessed the required level of nuance in directing to bring it all about and even HE could not manage to achieve a completely perfect picture. I don’t see anyone in today’s industry having this required level of subtlety and its understanding, and all the visuals can never save a film. In other words, I am not surprised it fell flat, but, then also, apart from Scott Thomas, I am not impressed by these “new “and “fresh” stars either.
I must admit I have not seen the original Hitchcock adaptation so was looking forward to this.
It was a real dull affair though!
I expected more horror…. I prefer her in the Zombies Pride and Prejudice…
It was very low-key from Wheatly, his normally very horror focused.
Thank you now I will look up his other works….
I am a huge fan of his second feature Kill List, even if its a fairly brutal watch. I know many that really dug his black comedy Sightseers and the dystopian High Rise.
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Didn’t realize this was a Ben Wheatley joint. I’ll check it out anyway even though it sounds like I’ll probably regret it. I see his upcoming films include Tomb Raider 2 and Meg 2??? This guys career has such a weird trajectory.
His career worries me a little bit, I think his run into some problems with the new Tomb Raider as well, won’t be surprised if that never sees the light of day.
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