Netflix ‘Rebecca’ Remake Fails to Live Up to the 1940 Hitchcock Classic

Alice Oscura – Featured Writer

Hear is the thing…I am a huge fan of movies from the Classic Hollywood Era. So, when someone comes along with the bright idea to remake a classic, I always say tread very lightly my friend! I went into this with bated breath because Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 Rebecca is one of my favourite movies of all time. But when I saw the ensemble cast I told myself, come on don’t be like that sometimes an update is need. Give it a chance. So here goes…

Look at you. All pretty and lovely. I used to be pretty and lovely too…

The movie is based on the 1938 novel of the same name written by Daphne du Maurier, an English author and playwright. The story is about a widower with aristocratic roots named Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). Whilst vacationing in Monte Carlo he meets a young woman (Lily James) who works as a lady companion to the absolutely horrible Mrs Van Hopper (Ann Dowd). They fall in love and the young woman quickly becomes Mrs de Winter (we never get her first name). After a romantic honeymoon, the couple return to Maxim’s sprawling estate Manderley situated in south-western England by the sea. However, she soon realizes that she’s got some pretty big shoes to fill as the haunting presence of the previously deceased Mrs Rebecca de Winter still lingers in Manderley. Maxim becomes guarded every time she asks about Rebecca and soon the new Mrs de Winter is left trying to solve a sinister secret looming its ugly head from the past and threatening to destroy her marriage.

The 1940 version was shot completely in black and white, so we are not graced with all the marvelous colors that the remake has. However, even with all its pretty colors and fancy set designs, it failed to create the tense and foreboding atmosphere that Hitchcock’s version was able to do with the brilliant use of shadowing, strategic lighting, and haunting musical score. Some of the wardrobe choices for the timeline is a bit questionable but, it can be overlooked.

When you pull up in traffic to the guy who has been driving like a maniac for the past 15 minutes

Lily James’ portrayal of the new Mrs de Winter is shaky at best. I am a huge fan of the actress, but this role was a bit beyond her reach. She does get a B for effort though because you can see that she really gave it the old college try. However, actress Joan Fontaine still gets my vote on this role. Fontaine as the young, inexperienced, and fumbling young woman was able to capture the essence of being demure but still displaying a passion and fire in her eyes, especially when she realises that Mrs Danvers is deliberately trying to sabotage her relationship with Maxim. Joan also had a natural ability to make her voice tremble with nervousness which supported the personality of the character. James just looked genuinely awkward and it didn’t carry off well in certain scenes of the movies that were meant to be a bit climactic.

While Hammer had the physical attributes of Maxim de Winter, he didn’t manage the appropriate emotional range for the conflicted Maxim. Sir Laurence Olivier was Hitchcock’s choice for the role and with a fair bit of theatre experience under his belt, Olivier was able to switch his emotions back and forth with expert ease. The character is extremely complicated and the reasoning behind the turmoil is the root cause of the character’s torment. Plus, there is a slight change in script in the Netflix version as to how Rebecca dies, and I honestly do not like it. It makes Maxim look a bit too menacing.

Maybe I should make a coat out of you

Mrs Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas) is a character that is supposed to strike instantaneous fear on the viewer from the time you first set eyes on her. I didn’t get that here either. She just looks uptight, stuck up and a down right b-word. There was no hint of sinister, creepiness, and almost obsessive quality that the original actress Judith Anderson manages quite successfully. That woman still gives me goosebumps to this day and her end is super climactic and shocking in the 1940 film. Here it is an extreme let down and you feel a bit deflated afterwards.

The closing scene I can appreciate though, because it was a far smoother transition and you get that happily ever after feeling. But it wasn’t enough for me to feel satisfied and stand up to clap at a job well done. Nope. It was a valiant effort, but some classics are not meant to be touched, and this is one of them for me. Just because it’s new and shiny doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better folks!

Alice’s Score: 5 out of 10

For my review of Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder you can click here. And for more thrilling film reviews you can check out our Thriller section here.

39AFB96D-4DEF-4DED-8DFE-3400E758CE9B Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump.

I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook, my Instagram is alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For more on me you can click here.

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