Since I had never read the original novel by Daphne du Maurier, I purposefully didn’t want to watch the acclaimed Alfred Hitchcock adaptation from 1940 in preparation for this new remix of Rebecca by director Ben Wheatley. Nowadays when all the information is just few Google searches and clicks away, it’s sometimes fun to go into a classic story with no preconceived notion or even expectations there for. Lily James stars as an young woman who quickly falls in love and gets married with rich man Maxim de Winter (played by Armie Hammer), only to find that Maxim’s previous marriage, which left him a widow, wasn’t all roses and champagne. Throwing romantic drama, crime thriller and courtroom battles in to one period blender, it becomes an uneven and messy smoothie that only looks nice since it has no taste whatsoever.
Rebecca could easily be described with ”everything on the screen and none on the page” and you’d get the gist of it. You could make a whole art gallery exhibition with screenshots and stills from its luxurious period details and lavish establishing shots, ones that take full advantage of the beautiful seaside hills, long halls of the mansion and sunny beaches. Because the script is so dull, it’s a good thing that you can at least devour everything around the actors and still get something out of it. Costume design takes difficult colours of yellow, red and everything between those to make the characters look the part, shots have been colour graded tastefully and the set decoration lets even insert shots to have a proper chance. Everything is certainly on the screen.
What is this ”none” on the page then? The film starts with romantic themes, using them correctly and the last 20 minutes use the thriller elements while picking up the pace nicely as well. Problem lies within everything in the middle as it seems lost, misguided and underwritten. Wheatley not only loses any sense of genre or tension regarding the atmosphere, but also seems to leave the cast (James, Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas in supporting role) behind. Dialogue is woeful as none of it feels like a real conversation. That’s part of the biggest issue in the film which is how the scenes play out. Normally a realistic scene begins with something that causes a reaction, then comes the reaction and then characters talk about it. Exciting movies shake up that structure to evoke emotion but in Rebecca, every scene starts with the reaction, then they explain what caused it with dialogue and then they talk about it with more dialogue. It just becomes draining when you always start at 100 and then water everything down by talking about it three times. You’re just playing one riff for two hours and everyone at Guitar Center hates you for it.
Smileys: Locations, costume design
Frowneys: Directing, dialogue, atmosphere
I’ll get to the Hitchcock version someday, don’t @ me.