The new Rebecca appears fine-tuned to be a nothing, a mediocrity that you can put on as a backdrop while texting your palsby Caspar Salmon / October 29, 2020 / Leave a comment
In his 1993 film Dear Diary, the Italian director Nanni Moretti stages a gleeful fantasy sequence in which, after a miserable experience at the cinema, he tracks down a film reviewer and reads his rave review of Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer back to him, tormenting the hapless critic with the sound of his own idiotic prose.
Since watching Ben Wheatley’s Rebecca last week, I have had similar daydreams about hunting down whoever greenlit the actor Armie Hammer’s yellow suit which is incomprehensibly ubiquitous at the start of this altogether dismaying new stab at Daphne Du Maurier’s novel. Why on earth (I will demand) would Max de Winter, the enigmatic, aristocratic widower, cavort around Monte Carlo in this Dijon nightmare for several days in a row? Did he not pack a spare? What is meant by it? It’s quite something to have your film torpedoed by a tweed three-piece in its opening ten minutes, but this Rebecca For Dummies has more where that came from.
Appearing in the film’s main role is Lily James as an innocent, unnamed lady’s maid who falls in with de Winter over oysters at breakfast (don’t ask). In these opening scenes, the character’s wide-eyed misadventures with French, food, and a forbidding boss give the film an unfortunate Emily In Monaco vibe. De Winter and the girl start courting and, although the performers’ chemistry is not evident onscreen, it isn’t long before she becomes the tongs to his Hammer in a sex scene on a sunlit beach.
This, and the film’s other additions to the source material, would not matter if it was presented with any confidence—after all, it does not have to be an exact retread of Hitchcock’s classic. But the departures from the book seem to derive from a want of confidence, and they testify to the film’s lack of engagement with the novel. When the couple marry and repair to Manderley, de Winter’s country pile, the new bride is soon visited by nightmares which feature Rebecca, the previous Mrs de Winter. One such vision sees James’s character falling into a pit of leaves in the hallway. This phantasmagoria is laughable, not because it is tasteless or badly made (although it is both…