Rebecca is a new version of the 1940s Hitchcock movie (okay, technically, the 1938 Daphne du Maurier novel), and I wouldn’t have thought of Ben Wheatley as someone making a remake of such a film, so I would hope he’d put his own stamp on it, given some of the great films he’s made like Free Fire, Sightseers, Kill List and A Field In England.
Lily James (Baby Driver) plays a character who’s only ever known as the second Mrs. de Winter, with her first name never being mentioned, and for that reason, I’ll most likely just refer to her as ‘Lily’ during the review because it’s easier. She’s the second one, because the first is the titular character, and late wife to Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name, and the aforementioned Free Fire), having passed away some months earlier.
However, before she meets him, she finds herself dreaming of his mansion, Manderley, but as was sang in The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Don’t dream it, be it…
It’s the 1930s, and a very opulent time for the well-to-do with plenty of glorious locations, and with Lily working a “lady’s companion” for the bossy, alcoholic Mrs Van Hopper (Ann Dowd) – for which she gets paid the whacking sum of… £90 per year! WOW! However, all is not lost because it’s during this that comes about a chance meeting occurs with Maxim.
He invites her for a drive after breakfast, one day, and it’s clear that they fancy each other, leading him to take her to a posh spot where he last visited with his late wife, Rebecca. This invites the question of why she died, but like the time he watched Fight Club, he doesn’t want to talk about it. Still, if that’s the case, then why take Lily there?! Duh!
Given his singleton status, and since Manderley has been passed down the generations, his problem is that if Max dies without an heir, the place will go to his sisters, and he can’t have that.
Events inevitably lead them to getting it on and moving to Manderley where, amongst the staff, is creepy butler Frith (Jeff Rawle) and the doubly-creepy Mrs Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), who won’t take any crap from anyone, and never seems to sleep! :O
The cast also includes former Ideal stars Tom Goodman-Hill as estate manager Frank Crawley, and Ben Crompton as beach hermit, Ben, who’s on probation!
Despite the lush surroundings, there’s something nagging at Lily. Whenever she asks Max him questions about his late wife or his sleepwalking, he doesn’t want to answer them. Mrs Danvers is equally cagey as is pretty much anyone she speaks to. Plus, she constantly finds reminders of the late wife, including realising she’s brushing her hair with Rebecca’s old hairbrush – with the implement full of her entwined hair, making her realise it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Bit by bit, Lily learns what happened to Rebecca, and it plays out like one of those mysteries where everyone seems to know what’s going on apart from the main character, who’s left completely in the dark. Plus, in such films, almost everyone they come across seems to be a completely unlikely oddball, and if I was the lead, I’d have high-tailed it away from the place long before I’d spent more than a day at Manderley!
I haven’t seen the original before, so the mystery for Lily was the same as the mystery for me, as she twigs something really weird happened in the past, but no-one will clue her in as to what’s happening.
However, as much as I wanted to watch this because of its director, given his past form, the more I was disappointed. I expect this film has been put Ben Wheatley in good stead with Hollywood for making a film that draws a large crowd, but when I watch a Ben Wheatley film, I *expect* a Ben Wheatley film… Not something bland which anyone could’ve been made, and there’s a waste of any scene pairing up Free Fire‘s Hammer with Sam Riley, who plays Jack Favell, but acts more like Terry-Thomas.
Perhaps it’s a blip? Hmm… what’s next for Mr W? Oh dear, a sequel to the 2018 Tomb Raider movie, which flopped so badly, only just breaking even – scraping just under $275m. Its budget was $94m and a film has to gross up to 3 times its budget in order to break even in order to take promotion into account. So, there really is no call for another one. Maybe Ben Wheatley wants to remake Jerry Maguire, since he clearly wants Hollywood to ‘show him the money'(!)
Well, there’s always hope for the rumoured Ideal movie…
Rebecca is in cinemas from today, and on Netflix from Wednesday October 21st, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD. However, you can buy the original novel on paperback, hardback or Kindle format.
Check out the trailer below:
Running time: 121 minutes
Release date: October 16th 2020 (cinemas), October 21st 2020 (Netflix)
Format: 2.39:1 (ARRIRAW (4.5K) (5.1K))
Director: Ben Wheatley
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park
Screenplay: Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse
Novel: Daphne Du Maurier
Music: Clint Mansell
Mrs. de Winter: Lily James
Maxim de Winter: Armie Hammer
Beatrice Lacy: Keeley Hawes
Mrs. Danvers: Kristin Scott Thomas
Jack Favell: Sam Riley
Mrs. Van Hopper: Ann Dowd
Dr. Baker: Bill Paterson
Inspector Welch: Mark Lewis Jones
Frank Crawley: Tom Goodman-Hill
Ben: Ben Crompton
Granny: Jane Lapotaire
Frith: Jeff Rawle
Clementine Whitney: Lucy Russell
Giles Lacy: John Hollingworth
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.