Monday, October 26, 2020

Rebecca (2020)

I'm unfamiliar with both antecedents, the original du Maurier novel and Hitchcock's first American feature, which he is said to have despised, yet is widely considered a classic nowadays.

There's something very 'off' about Ben Wheatley's adaptation for Netflix. For a film essentially made for the small screen it is odd that it appears to be striving to please aesthetically above all other considerations.
The setting seems skewed as well. I have cine footage of my mother's holidays in the South of France dating to the same period the book was written (late 30s) and the costumes don't look right at all.
And as a British director, I would have expected Ben Wheatley to handle better the presentation of pre-war social tropes. Yet on the matter of class this movie is basically tone deaf.
The two most naturally posh British thesps in the production — Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas — the lady's companion and the housekeeper, should somehow have been flagged as lower middle class for the drama to function effectively for British viewers. And none of those playing supposed toffs have any of the right manerisms.
As Maxim, Armie Hammer is a sort of cardboard cut out of an eligible bachelor without ever convincing as an English landed gent of the period. None of the staff at Manderley seem to have a Cornish accent, although I recall one that is full on "Oive got a brand new combine 'aaarvester".
As I said, I have not been exposed to any other variant, but the plot seems to overflow with opportunities for cloaking the characters with pointed moral ambiguity, and these are largely squandered here. The transition point in Maxim's place in the story is handled especially anaemically.
The whole thing is saved in the end simply by being rather pleasing on the eye and because, of course, Scott Thomas is fabulous as Mrs Danvers.

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