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‘Rebecca’ review: Netflix’s remake overshadowed by its predecessors

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One of the lessons of Daphné du Mauriers Rebecca is to be wary of impostor syndrome, especially the impulse to compare yourself too anxiously with a beloved predecessor. The second Mrs. de Winter learns it the hard way: her whirlwind romance and fairytale marriage is soon eclipsed by the memory of her husband’s late first wife, Rebecca, a formidable rival who, like many ghosts, does It’s not quite what it appears. be. Chances are, you know the story and if you don’t, its intricate secrets are worth preserving after reading the rightfully popular novel or seeing one of its many onscreen versions. , none more famous than Alfred Hitchcocks, winner of an Oscar in 1940.

Talk about your beloved predecessors! The Hitchcock movie, performed without equal by Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier and Judith Anderson, is widely considered to be definitive, but it never felt sacrosanct to me. Much like Jane Eyre, her partner in the oft-adapted Gothic romance, Rebecca is enduring enough to withstand and even reward multiple interpretations. who would not dream of going to Manderley again? (The 1997 Masterpiece Theater miniseries are especially worth looking for, especially for fans who still mourn Diana Rigg, whose portrayal of Emmy-winning Mrs. Danvers is an example of wickedness at the ‘screen in its greatest emotion.)

And so the disappointment of Netflix’s richly-padded new Rebecca directed by English filmmaker Ben Wheatley from a screenplay by Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel, and Anna Waterhouse isn’t simply that it doesn’t offer superior alternatives. It’s more that the filmmakers seem curiously at sea over the purpose of their mission, having neither the patience to dive headlong into the familiar depths of stories, nor the radicalism to reinvent it entirely. Their guiding instinct seems to have been to steep the procedure in Hollywood glamor as young as possible, which more or less explains Armie Hammer’s casting as Winter’s GQ-iest ever decorated.

Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers in the movie

Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers in the movie Rebecca.

(Kerry Brown / Netflix)

While Hammer seems a little too young, serene, and downright American to play the sardonic, brooding English widower, he’s still too charming a presence to object for long (even if he shows up in a lumpy three-piece suit that doesn’t scream. not Maxim de Winter as much as Colonel Mustard). He’s certainly not the only actor to spend much of the image struggling to make a familiar characterization his own: Lily James is chattering and fidgeting quite nervously, but she projects a darker self-confidence than what you would expect from the shy and shy young lady. which makes Maxims’ head spin.

They meet in Monte Carlo, where Maxim is recovering from the trauma of Drowning Rebeccas, and where our unnamed heroine serves as a paid companion to a vulgar tourist (a deliciously insufferable Ann Dowd). An oyster platter, a few scenic coastal roads and seaside sex later, Maxim takes his new bride to his coastal mansion, where Rebecca’s evil specter quickly asserts itself. She lives in every piece of boldly R-monogrammed fabric and stationery, as well as in the cove not far from where her sailboat tragically ran aground. She also lives in the awe-inspiring stories of close relatives and associates of Maxims (played by actors such as Keeley Hawes, John Hollingworth and Tom Goodman-Hill), and in the anecdotes of her own snake-like cousin, Jack Favell (a Sam Riley extremely efficient).

But no one does more to keep Rebeccas ‘memory alive than the housekeeper, Mrs.Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), who spends her days bubbling, prowling in the shadows and keeping her late mistress’ boudoir in a state of repair. spooky mint. With her below voice insinuations and weak, condescending smiles, Scott Thomas makes a Mrs. Danvers slightly warmer and sweeter than most; it slides through the image like a dagger sheathed in blue silk. She also tries to lay bare the highly tormented human figures, as shown in a fascinating but narratively misguided confrontation with freshly emboldened James Mrs. de Winter: Sitting on his own bed in a translucent nightgown, Scott Thomas gives seductive form to the repressed lesbian. desires to which Hitchcock and Anderson could only allude under the restrictions of the Hays Code.

Armie Hammer, Lily James and Sam Riley in the movie

Armie Hammer, Lily James and Sam Riley in the movie Rebecca.

(Kerry Brown / Netflix)

The repression is, of course, baked in the very atmosphere of the Mauriers novel, which is both an indictment and a great wallowing in the kind of fragile English formality that allows secrets to fester and desires to fester. flourish in obsessions. If this Rebecca has a constant failure, it’s that in trying to bring to the surface the dramas underlying the passions, she tears the veil far too quickly. It’s the product of an impatient, if not brash sensibility, and it soon ends up in busy and flashy effects: an exhausting montage scheme, shallow dream sequences and leap frights, and a score by Clint Mansell. which poses a greater risk of drowning than the ocean itself. .

There are glimmers of subversive and hallucinatory sensibility that animated some of Wheatleys’ early images, most notably his intensely edgy 2011 thriller, Kill List. And there are the Baroque pleasures expected from Manderley himself, a maze of gilded framed paintings and checkered marble floors. (Production design is by Sarah Greenwood, cinematography by Lauri Rose.) Probably Wheatleys ‘strongest streak is the costume ball where Mrs. de Winter, seeking Maxims’ approval, ends up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, a moment that plays the gifts of a director for the staging of Bacchanalian chaos, but also the strengths of his costume designer, Julian Day.

But the dizzyingly mysterious and romantic charm that you want from this story is never allowed to set in. It should be noted that the previous picture of Wheatleys was a suitably deranged adaptation of JG Ballards High-Rise, a supposedly non-filmable book that appears to have posed less of a challenge than the extremely filmable Mauriers. I suspect her next one will be better, and hopefully the next Rebecca will too.

Rebecca

Evaluation: PG-13, for some sexual content, partial nudity, thematic elements and smoking

Execution time: 2 hours, 2 minutes

Playing: Starts October 16 in limited version where theaters are open; available October 21 on Netflix



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