Monday, November 09, 2020

Movie Monday: Rebecca

Last weekend, on Halloween, my husband and I settled in for a creepy, suspenseful new adaptation of Rebecca on Netflix. We listened to the audiobook a couple of years ago, though my husband quit halfway through (at the end of our car trip), and I listened to the end. We both enjoyed the taut suspense of this new movie.

For those new to the story, Rebecca is a classic Gothic novel, written by Daphne du Maurier and published in 1938. It was first adapted to film in 1940 by Alfred Hitchcock. My review will focus mainly on this new adaptation from Netflix, which differs in some ways from both the book and the first movie.

Lily James plays a naive, pretty young woman working as a "lady's companion" for the loud and gossipy Mrs. Van Hopper, played by Ann Dowd, who is staying in Monte Carlo. When Mrs. Van Hopper becomes ill temporarily, the young woman (who is nameless in the story) is left on her own. She meets the handsome and charming Max de Winter, played by Armie Hammer, and the two of them immediately hit it off. Mrs. Van Hopper has warned her that Mr. de Winter lost his wife a year ago and is grieving and unstable, but in spite of the warnings, she falls in love with him and spends days with him, dining out, touring the area, and going to the beach, enjoying a lifestyle she never dreamed of. When Mrs. Van Hopper recovers and abruptly proclaims that they are returning to New York, Max proposes, and the two are quickly wed. After a honeymoon in Europe, Max brings her back to his huge estate in England, called Manderley. Coming from such modest means, she is completely overwhelmed by the wealthy and grandiose estate, its formal traditions, and especially the stiff and unwelcoming house manager, Mrs. Danvers. She makes it clear that the new Mrs. de Winter can never replace the old one, Rebecca, whose room and other things remain exactly as she left them. Try as she might to fit in and make a place for herself at Manderley, Mrs. de Winter finds it harder and harder to ignore the sinister feelings, as secrets slowly unfold. Things are definitely not as they seem.

This new movie successfully replicates the creeping dread and twisty plot surprises of the book, though some of the plot points and characters have changed in certain ways. For instance, Max is said to have a quick temper, but it doesn't really show up much in this latest adaptation. The ambiguous, sudden ending of the book here is drawn out a bit more, to allow for a happy ending. My husband and I enjoyed watching the movie, so I was surprised when I listened to a review of the new Rebecca on Pop Culture Happy Hour, one of my favorite podcasts, and found that most of the hosts didn't like it (their episode at the link - it includes spoilers). My conclusion is that if you have seen the 1940 Hitchcock film (which won an Academy Award for Best Picture), then you will probably find this version lacking. Similarly, if you are a huge fan of the original book and have read it multiple times, you may find yourself nitpicking at the differences here. My advice if you want to enjoy this new adaptation is definitely don't watch or rewatch the 1940 version first, as one of the hosts on the podcast did! I read the book (listened to it) several years ago, and my husband never even finished it, so we went into the movie fairly cold, and we enjoyed it as the excellent dark, creeping, suspenseful story that it is.

Rebecca  is a Netflix original movie, so it is available exclusively on Netflix.

If you'd like to watch the original 1940 film adaptation directed by Alfred Hitchcock, you can stream it on YouTube or watch on DVD.

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