By Rebecca Benson
Wanting to get into the Halloween spirit, I sought to watch Netflix’s remake of Daphne du Maurier’s novel, Rebecca. The original film, directed by the celebrated Alfred Hitchcock, who also won an Oscar (his one and only) for his depiction of the iconic book. His movie starred the dark and moody Laurence Olivier for the mysterious Mr. Maxim de Winter. Joan Fontaine was by his side to star as Mrs. de Winter. In this retelling, Netflix introduces Armie Hammer and Lily James for the lead roles.
We find widower Maxim de Winter, who is spending some time in Monte Carlo. He has taken a liking to an average-looking young mistress, who is on a working vacation with her employer. Not much is known about either character. In fact, our mademoiselle remains nameless. That is until their whirlwind romance ends in marriage. The newly wedded Mr. and Mrs. de Winter return to his estate, Manderley. Things get rather strange upon their arrival. The stately Manderley is run exclusively by Mrs. Danvers, who has an eerie attachment to the former lady of the house, Rebecca de Winter. As a running theme throughout the story, not much is known about the deceased Rebecca. The entire West Wing is off-limits (sound familiar?), as Rebecca’s personal belongings have been preserved exactly as she had them prior to her death. The plot thickens as the new Mrs. de Winter goes exploring (and yes, she too sneaks into the West Wing). She also meets other aloof and strange characters on the property.
Along with the jealous Mrs. Danvers, whose motives stem from her deep loyalty to Rebecca, Mrs. de Winter must combat her curiosity and high expectations set up by her predecessor. I can’t say much more–I’m adamant about not spoiling plots–but I can tell you that, like most classic movies, all is not as it seems. Does Rebecca’s ghost truly roam the halls? Or is it the downfall of humans and the emotions that charge us and dictate our actions? Just how deep does jealousy and betrayal run? You’ll have to make those conclusions on your own!
I do love a good mystery! I have read the book and have watched Hitchcock’s version of Rebecca. And there’s nothing like enjoying a black and white quintessential film. But let’s talk about this remake, something besides the obvious differences like black and white versus color. The sets were simplistic. I was expecting something a little more opulent–it is Monte Carlo after all. The attraction between Mr. and Mrs. de Winter was believable. However, Armie Hammer fell slightly short. Maxim’s character is pensive and moody. Hammer’s angry outbursts didn’t land, the emotions not quite reaching his eyes. I will say that casting Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers was spot on.
Thomas fully embodied the lurking, quiet yet cut-throat loyal servant of Mrs. Danvers. What made my decision to give the rating I did was that the climax was flatly delivered. In the older movie, the secrets Manderley holds are slowly revealed to the audience. The viewer has already started to put together their theories until the nearing end when the truth is divulged. It was disappointing to have it be so simplified. I like to use my imagination and conjure up my own theories. I have to praise Netflix for its attempt to bring back the nostalgia of older movies. With a PG-13 rating, viewers don’t have to worry about much inappropriate material or foul language. But this one didn’t work for me. It is a shorter movie by today’s standards, so if you’ve got time and want to take a break from slasher movies, check out Rebecca.
Rating: 3.5 Pastrami Nations of 5
Rebecca Benson currently resides in the mountains of California. A mother of one daughter, she has a love for pop culture, with a knack for Disney, Harry Potter, and is currently an educator for the hearing impaired. An avid reader, she jumped deeper into the world of comic books in 2020, with her interest piqued in the independent scene.