There’s something unsettling about “Rebecca,” director Ben Wheatley‘s stylish remake of the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock classic. Although the story mostly stays true to Daphne du Maurier’s novel, the toxic relationship aspect of the plot simply doesn’t feel right within the parameters of a modern feminist society. While it’s a period film that’s set during a time when violence and extra-marital affairs would be considered taboo (the late 1930s), it’s impossible to watch this needless remake and not project your own contemporary sensibilities onto the subject matter. The actions of the main characters are problematic in a much deeper way, to the point they become highly disturbing.
A young woman (Lily James) is captivated by a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo with handsome widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). The two decide on a whim to marry, and Maxim takes her back to his grand family estate on the English coast. The young woman is naive and unschooled in the ways of being a wife, finding herself at odds with the sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas) and living in the shadow of Maxim’s first wife, Rebecca. A mystery slowly unravels and the truth is revealed about what really happened to the former lady of the house.
I didn’t expect this remake to live up to the original, and neither should you. It’s a mostly lackluster interpretation of the story that makes for a tame romantic thriller. There are plenty of beautiful people doing terrible things, but the draggy pacing is tough to endure (even in the midst of some truly lovely costume design and lush cinematography).
There’s enough suspense to help the old fashioned story feel modern and updated, but “Rebecca” is a project that ambles amongst its own pointlessness.