The Reel Review
Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas star in this Netflix adaptation of the 1938 gothic novel by Daphne Du Maurier – the tale of a servant who, after a brief courtship, falls in love with and marries a wealthy widower, and is whisked away to his windswept English estate, only to learn that she is living in the shadow of her late predecessor, Rebecca.
Director Ben Wheatley’s interpretation, while faithful to the original source material, reads as more of a CliffsNotes version of the novel. (Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film adaptation won the Oscar for Best Picture.) This version ticks all the key plot points but often glosses over the nuances of the story – in particular the overwhelming class struggle faced by the new Mrs. De Winter and the big climax which is the turning point for her character.
Still, Lily James channels her best subversive feminist streak to give her character at least some believability and Kristin Scott Thomas looks like is she is having the scene-chewing time of her life as the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. And Armie Hammer – well, he is pretty and is spot on as the widower. Rebecca is a fun pot boiler – entertaining enough in its own right, and everything – from the sumptuous setting, the cast and the score – is absolutely beautiful.
• Lily James and Sam Riley also co-starred in 2016’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
• Ben Wheatley also directed Armie Hammer and Sam Riley in 2016’s Free Fire.
• Two English properties served as the setting for the Manderley estate in Rebecca – Cranborne Manor in Dorset and Hatfield House in Hertfordshire.
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