Starring: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas
Director: Ben Wheatley
Running Time: 121 mins
Rebecca is a British film about a young woman who arrives at her new husband’s storied family manor only to be forced into the shadow of his late wife, Rebecca, whose strong legacy haunts her every day.
Just as the new Mrs. de Winter lives in fear of being in Rebecca’s shadow, so too could this film have been anxious about living up to the reputation of Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary 1940 adaptation. However, Ben Wheatley’s new vision of the classic tale is as enthralling as it is utterly gorgeous, exchanging the cold mental torment of Hitchcock’s version for a sprawling and elegant cinematic style that goes down so sweetly.
There’s no denying the brilliance of Hitchcock’s Rebecca, with its psychologically tortuous drama and claustrophobic atmosphere, but the way that Ben Wheatley has taken this story and projected a different yet equally suitable vision onto it is an absolute delight, allowing you to relive the same story as if you’d never seen it before.
Complete with gorgeous visuals, an elegant musical score and irresistible performances across the board, this new adaptation of Rebecca is certainly brighter than Hitchcock’s, but that doesn’t mean it lacks the riveting drama that makes this story so great.
Starting off in beautiful fashion with a sun-baked prologue that follows the beginning of Maxim and his new wife’s courtship, Rebecca immediately shows off its stylish and sprawling visuals that pulls you into the fairy tale romance of a lifetime.
When we arrive at Manderley House and things begin to turn darker, however, the film maintains its gorgeous style, and never remains quite as confined as Hitchcock’s version of the story did.
Of course, there’s a trade-off there which means this film doesn’t have the same mentally distressing sense of claustrophobia and paranoia, but it does prove a whole lot more spectacular, with faster pacing and high-stakes drama that make it an enormously entertaining watch all the way through.
At times, this Rebecca has something of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby about it, with immense style playing a big part in making it such a great watch. But the film is more than just a pretty face, and manages to engross you in its story of mental insecurity and fear in irresistible fashion.
What’s more, the film features a fantastic ensemble cast including Lily James and Armie Hammer, who are both spectacular, as well as Kristin Scott Thomas, who proves just as fearsome and unnerving as Mrs. Danvers as Judith Anderson did in the 1940 film.
Coupled with Clint Mansell’s elegant yet still uneasy musical score and production design that works perfectly at both the film’s sunniest and darkest moments, and you have a bold new vision of Rebecca that’s enormously refreshing, and just as satisfying as what we’ve seen before.
I’d hesitate to say that Wheatley’s and Hitchcock’s adaptations are worlds apart, but they do very different things. The original, in true Hitchcock fashion, is an intoxicating psychodrama that’s thrilling but extremely uncomfortable.
Wheatley, on the other hand, crafts a film that’s a lot of fun to be drawn into, and while he may not manage to provide the same level of mental anguish, he makes up for it by telling a great story in thoroughly entertaining fashion.
Overall, I’m delighted to say that I absolutely loved Rebecca. I never expected to see the film match what Hitchcock did 80 years ago, but with a bold new vision that features a gorgeous, sprawling cinematic style, brilliant performances and enthralling drama, it’s an immensely entertaining watch, which is why I’m giving it an 8.3.