Review by Dan Skip Allen
Rebecca won the Academy Award for Best Picture back in 1940. Needlessly, Hollywood has found it necessary to make a remake in 2020, eighty years after the original came out. Based on the very popular book by Daphne Du Maurier, the original film has a darker, gothic take on the source material. This version by Ben Wheatley (High Rise, Free Fire) has a more beautiful sprawling take on the source material. So many of the scenes are just filmed so beautifully. The cinematography is breathtaking to behold by Laurie Rose.
After a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo, Maxim DeWinter (Armie Hammer) takes his new wife (Lily James) to his imposing home off the windswept coast of England, Manderley. Even though she's his husband, the sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristen Scott Thomas) still has the memory of his previous wife Rebecca in her heart. The new Mrs. DeWinter has a hard time adjusting to these circumstances. Young and inexperienced, she is forced to settle into her new surroundings very quickly or be left aside to the memory of Rebecca.
Armie Hammer has come a long way in his career ever since his dual roles as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network. He has previously worked with Ben Wheatley in the action-packed Free Fire. He was perfectly cast as this widower and owner of this beautiful English manor. Lily James, another young actress who's come into her own lately as well, has played many roles similar to the one in Rebecca as Mrs. DeWinter, the innocent young upstart.
In the original Rebecca, Judith Anderson portrayed the sinister Mrs. Danvers. This time around, Kristen Scott Thomas got to wrap her arms around this delicious character. This is a dark woman who was very enamored with Rebecca and she won't let the new Mrs. DeWinter forget her memory. Thomas sinks her teeth into this role getting between Maxim and his new bride. Her evil ways have gotten into this new relationship one to many times. She tries to tear them apart. Thomas has played these types of roles before though. It comes easy to play nasty domineering types for Thomas. She has made a career of it.
Ben Wheatley tried to capture the feel and texture of the original film. He, as they say, gave it the old college try. This version has beautiful cinematography, costume design, and set production. The performances are good but lack the panache of the original film. Hammer, James, and Thomas were perfect choices for these classic roles. They do as much as they can with this material. The thing that doesn't add up is the story. It wasn't meant to be adapted again for today's audiences. That style of film was perfectly set in the 1940s. It doesn't translate to this new era of filmmaking. While this is a good try by everybody involved, the classic will still be here to watch if anybody wants to see the better version of this classic tale of love and revenge.
Rebecca is now streaming on Netflix.