A timid young woman marries a rich aristocrat who is
still greatly affected by the sudden death of his first wife.
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Written by Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse
Starring Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas,
Sam Riley, Tom Goodman-Hill, Keeley Hawes, Ann Dowd
Remake of 1940's Rebecca
Based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier
You've gotta have a set of giant brass balls if you're gonna even attempt to remake Hitchcock. We've seen others try and fail many times: Psycho, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, and so many others in development. When the trailer debuted, I thought Rebecca looked fairly generic and was destined to be forgettable. It also looked like the film would miss the mark entirely, as it was marketed as a sort-of dramatic ghost story. The reviews were universally negative and I shelved it. But I must say, I am surprised at how on the mark this remake was. Lily James and Armie Hammer did justice to Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier, a feat I did not think possible, and delivered a solid adaptation that stands on its own.
The story is identical, though with today's technology and lack of restrictions, Ben Wheatley was able to go much farther than Hitchcock was able to because of his forced adherence to the Hays Code. I felt Hammer was a lot more charming, likable, and down-to-earth than Olivier was. I always felt Laurence Olivier was a bit pretentious, and you could feel it in a lot of his work. Hammer played a charming but haunted wealthy man still looking over his shoulder for the ghost of his wife, and I believed it. Lily James worked great with him, and Kristin Scott Thomas was thoroughly despicable as Mrs. Danvers.
I urge fans of Hitchcock's to give Rebecca a chance. Ben Wheatley absolutely understood the darkness and humanity of Rebecca, and it comes through in this dark, underrated remake. The critics were off the mark, and I'm sure they trashed it simply on the grounds that it was someone trying to remake Hitchcock. I doubt many of them gave the film a chance. While it didn't really need to be made, the final product is a decent watch that does justice to one of Hitchcock's most celebrated works.