Saturday 27 January 2024

Movie Review: Rebecca (2020)

Genre: Romantic Drama Mystery  
Director: Ben Wheatley  
Starring: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ann Dowd  
Running Time: 121 minutes  

Synopsis: It's the 1930s in Monte Carlo, and the personal assistant (Lily James) to Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd) meets and falls in love with wealthy widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). They marry and settle at Maxim's Manderley estate in rural England. The new Mrs. de Winter learns that her predecessor Rebecca was adored before dying in mysterious circumstances, and finds the authoritarian housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas) protective of Rebecca's legacy. As Maxim grows distant, the new Mrs. de Winter has to uncover secrets of the past.

What Works Well:  The inherent strength of Daphne Du Maurier's story registers first as a romance then a mysterious drama, director Ben Wheatley generally avoiding suspense. The gorgeous sets are straight out of a glossy magazine, with colours popping into images of wealth. Kristin Scott Thomas perfects the tight condescending smile and resolutely commits to Danvers as a guardian of the past, while the new Mrs. de Winter's unsettling experiences reach a peak during a costume ball that veers into a gargoylian nightmare.

What Does Not Work As Well: Compared to Hitchcock's mood-rich version, the attractive locales here remain soulless, and the two main performers struggle for depth, never rising above the status of intruders from a different era. Armie Hammer lacks the necessary darkness to convey complex grieving, and Lily James is too obviously a misfit in Manderley's world. After a careful set-up, the final act is a jumbled rush, depriving the momentous revelations of any time for reflection.

Conclusion: Enjoyable vintage imagery but lacking the corresponding substance. 

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