Last night, I dreamed I went to Manderley again.Lily James, Rebecca
Release Date: October 21st, 2020 | Director: Ben Wheatley
Rebecca is the story of the second Mrs. de Winter and her romance with the dashing Maxim de Winter. The story begins in Monte Carlo where the second Mrs. de Winter is traveling with her employer. She soon meets Maxim and the two of them begin a whirlwind romance that results in a quick marriage. Maxim owns an estate called Manderley and as he takes his new wife home, the second Mrs. de Winter begins to notice strange occurrences in her new home. She begins to link it back to Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca and the strange housekeeper who seems to hate her. As the second Mrs. de Winter grows more swept up in the mystery of her predecessor, she realizes that Manderley might not be the only thing that still belongs to Rebecca.
I wanted to love this movie. Oh boy, I wanted to love this movie. Rebecca is probably one of my alltime favorite novels and I adore the Alfred Hitchcock production with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine. In my mind, nobody could truly ever replace them. Olivier had this commanding presence that made him perfect for the role of Maxim. Joan Fontaine had the perfect amount of naivety and curiosity that made her perfect for the second Mrs. de Winter. In this movie; however, I was so disappointed by the casting that I almost shut the movie off before Maxim and his new bride even left Monte Carlo. Lily James managed to capture the naivety of Mrs. de Winter well and she did do the character justice to a level that I was content with. However, her counterpart Armie Hammer, left much to be desired. Hammer couldn’t really keep up with the level of sophistication that was needed to play Maxim effectively. I didn’t believe that he was Maxim de Winter, instead I saw him as someone playing dressup and pretending to be an actor. Kristin Scott Thomas made a convincing Mrs.Danvers and the interactions between her and Mrs. de Winter were beautiful. The enjoyability of the dynamics between these two women kept the movie entertaining but any time I saw scenes between Maxim and his wife, I was unconvinced. They just lacked chemistry.
In terms of the plot, the movie watched like someone was writing a book report on a novel they didn’t truly understand. Yes, the overarching plot is relatively correct but the themes just aren’t there. I didn’t feel the desperation and insecurity of Mrs. de Winter as effectively as I did in the 1940’s film and the novel. I just felt like I was a passive audience and not actively engaged in the film. Mrs. Danver’s relationship with Rebecca is seen more as a predatory romantic relationship rather than the full blown obsession that it was. The movie really didn’t need to explicitly add a ghostly image of Rebecca in certain scenes. Yes, I could see the effectiveness in using that technique to emphasize the idea that Manderley was Rebecca’s home first, but I think that the movie forgets that it’s obvious before they add Rebecca’s ghost. It’s obvious from the countless times Rebecca is mentioned and the stories that Mrs. Danvers tells about her. Adding the ghostly figure was so over the top that I cringed. The ending, which is something that usually made me tear up, was so emotionless because the movie never quite developed the significance of Manderley as its setting. I almost prefer the 1940’s ending even though that’s not completely accurate either.
The thing with this movie is that I’m not sure why the adaptation was needed. And if it was just a ploy on Netflix’s part just to make money, then why not cast it better and why not write a more heartwrenching script? This is not a happy story and yet I felt like there was a happy ever after. I didn’t need one. I would’ve rather been sad and had the ending be accurate than feel like everything was wrapped up in a neat bow. I’m usually a sucker for movies that have a circular feel to them, but this one just didn’t make sense. The final scene was so unnecessary that I almost felt bad for the actors and the production crew for having to film it. This is a prime example of an adaptation that really never needed to happen. The 1940’s Rebecca, no matter how old it is, is the one that deserves to be watched in conjunction with reading the novel. Not this overly stylistic version with a Maxim that barely convinced me he was British.
Overall, just save your energy. If you’re a huge fan of this book like I am, watch an earlier version or allow yourself to be satisfied with the novel and your imagination. This is a story that works best in your imagination because Manderley could be whatever you wanted it to be. I don’t recommend this movie at all, if you want to watch an adaptation of Rebecca, watch the Hitchcock version and save yourself the headache.