Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Rebecca

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Copyright: Netflix

Hollywood and their obsession with remakes seems to have rubbed off somewhat on Netflix, who are now commissioning dark, seedy remakes of classic Alfred Hitchcock films. I doubt this new rendition of Rebecca will be the last we see of Hitchcock’s work damned to modernity. Especially now, when it can appeal to formidably recognised names like Armie Hammer and Lily James. Those are our leads for this piece, taking on the Herculean task of adapting a classic drama from the 1940s and fitting it into several different genres, with the addition of period piece and dramatic romance sliding their way into a film clogged with problems. 

With James and Hammer at the centre of this one, it’s no surprise that the leading performances handle the material well. Not a shot for shot remake, but great swathes of dialogue copied and pasted into the script which offers up few changes and little in the way of sense. Hammer and James have a succession of strong scenes together, good chemistry overall, but there’s no escaping the complete uselessness of it all. It does nothing to either improve or expand upon the source material, so it begs the question as to what the point is? There doesn’t seem to be one, and Rebecca hopes to coast through on the charms of their leading performers. It very nearly does so, but promising director Ben Wheatley lets the side down with this polished, inarticulate piece.  

There are some tremendously odd editing choices here. Scenes of fascinatingly odd camera angles, spliced in with scenes from a completely different location or something that has nothing to do with the plot. One scene in particular, of Hammer carrying James down the beach, reminded me of an advert for life insurance, and that’s never a good thing to remind people of when your leading man is a widow. These scenes aren’t few and far between, either, with camera angles that provide upside-down shots, lingering scenes of paintings on walls to show how large a home Max owns, but none of it makes for an interesting spectacle. I expected more from Wheatley, his track record has been solid so far, but this is a huge leap in the wrong direction.  

A hacked-up version of the Laurence Olivier-led original, a film that will appeal to the basic fans of cinema whose favourite film is Mean Girls or The Avengers. There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but why watch an inferior version to an original that, at best, is somewhat good? I’ll never understand that, unless people have a strange aversion to black and white narratives, I’m not quite sure. Rebecca is not a good adaptation, it feels very flat and boring, its grandiose set designs cannot disguise the disgust I feel for its laughable portrayal of a 40s classic. Still, it’s still a smidge better than Gus van Sant’s adaptation of Psycho, we shall never fall to those depths again. I should hope not, anyway.