Lily James and Armie Hammer star in Ben Wheatley's movie adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.
Daphne du Maurier's famed 1938 Gothic novel Rebecca has been adapted for the screen many times, most notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, and now Ben Wheatley tries to put his own spin on the well-known story in this latest adaptation.
The film begins in Monte Carlo, with the unnamed narrator (played by Lily James) serving as a companion to the rich Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd).
Van Hopper fancies the wealthy widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) and sees herself as the next lady of Manderley, his sprawling estate on the English coast, but he falls for her companion instead.
After a brief courtship, the duo gets married and head home - but it is not the paradise she was hoping for.
The new Mrs. de Winter realises that Manderley is haunted by the memory of his first wife Rebecca, who died a year before, and the sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas) likes to make sure she never escapes Rebecca’s shadow.
It's surprising that Wheatley signed up for this. He has directed a novel adaptation before, with High-Rise, but that was still quite oddball, quirky and indie, whereas Rebecca is so classic and well-known it leaves him little room to put his own stamp on it.
And there isn’t much sign of him here at all – Rebecca is inoffensive, mainstream, and very loyal to the novel.
Hammer delivers an impressively convincing British accent, one that was consistent and sounded natural, rather than put-on.
He fits the bill as Maxim, as does James as the lead. She does well going from naïve and timid in the beginning to strong and assertive nearer the end, but this isn’t one of her standout performances.
The star of the show is Scott Thomas as the cold and calculating Mrs. Danvers, who had been devoted to Rebecca since she was a child and cannot stand this new replacement. She was perfectly cast in the role.
There is also great support from Sam Riley as Rebecca’s slimy cousin Jack Favell, Keeley Hawes as Maxim’s kind sister, and Tom Goodman-Hill as his estate manager Frank.
How viewers respond to this new adaptation will largely depend on how familiar they are with previous iterations or the source material itself because, presumably, knowing the ending will remove any sense of intrigue in the plot.
From a fresh perspective, some of the revelations in Rebecca seemed obvious, while others were genuinely surprising. It was interesting watching the twists and turns play out but it still wasn't particularly gripping or thrilling.
Rebecca is a beautiful film to look at, with stunning European locations, English coastline landscapes, and costumes, but it doesn't inspire much feeling.
In selected cinemas from Friday 16th October and on Netflix from 21st October.
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