Netflix thought it would be a splendid idea to reheat a perfectly cooked Hitchcock film, adding a few ingredients back from the book the auteur had diligently left out
When Alfred Hitchcock made the film, Rebecca (1940), only two years after the release of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic novel of the same title, it must’ve been both relevant and relatable, because it made mammoth waves at the time. It’s still lauded as a classic, having won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Cinematography that year. About 40 years later, BBC made the book into a 4-part mini-series, which was also well received. The story should have been laid to rest after that point, since the central theme of a woman’s paralyzing jealousy of an ex-wife and complete dependence on her husband would not sit well with modern liberal women, except for maybe the real housewives of Beverly Hills. No offence.
Another 40 years on, a time span far too long in the realm of annual Hollywood reboots, Netflix thought it would be a splendid idea to reheat a perfectly cooked Hitchcock film, adding a few ingredients back from the book the auteur had diligently left out. There really was nothing to extract from this remake other than fleeting new discoveries like- Armie Hammer looks ravishing in a mustard yellow suit or the French Riviera is more spectacular in colour. Hitchcock’s film was of course in black and white.
What does one take away from this film after investing two hours gaping at an uncomfortably tight suit? The third act. Hitchcock’s film ended in a rush without explaining how Rebecca died, as though he customarily ran out of budget. If one is curious by nature and simply must know those detes and can't get enough of Armie Hammer (guilty) and can’t be bothered to read a 416-page-long depressing book (guilty again), only then it would make any sense to stream Rebecca (2020).
Ben Wheatley’s Rebecca was dumbfounding at times. It’s hard to have to watch a grown woman be patronized throughout the film like that. The wealthy Maxim de Winter (Hammer) admires his young bride for her childlike innocence. He even begrudges her “growing up” after the ordeals surrounding his deceased wife, Rebecca. We know nothing about this new Mrs de Winter (Lily James), not even her first name. Her identity is restricted to being the lady of the mansion, Manderly, a place haunted by her predecessor’s memories, reminiscences the housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), will hold on to at any cost.
Even with the extended third act, this remake is utterly unnecessary. Maybe if enough remakes do as badly, Hollywood will finally start to write something original. In a city where every Uber driver has a script, or ten, that shouldn’t be too hard.