NETFLIX REVIEW! I’m coming at this one film fresh, having not seen the original Alfred Hitchcock Best Picture of 1940. From director Ben Wheatley, Rebecca is the story of a young woman (Lily James)—an adult orphan of sorts, with no friends or family and traveling the world with her employer, Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd).
While on a “networking” trip in Monte Carlo, the young woman meets the wealthy Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). The two instantly fall in love, and when Van Hopper decides it is time for her to travel to New York, the young woman becomes distraught at the thought of leaving her new love. Maxim proposes to the young woman, and she becomes the new Mrs. De Winter (in a bit of irony, the character’s name is never revealed).
Rebecca is a big story, and it’s a thriller about a poor, lower-class woman finding herself a small fish in a very large and wealthy pond. Wheatley successfully brings back the epic backgrounds, location, costumes, and characters of the 1930s in a way that makes me miss the big spectacles of long ago. It’s a beautiful movie with beautiful people, being beautiful. However, to me, that isn’t enough for a recommendation.
“…a thriller about a poor, lower-class woman finding herself a small fish in a very large and wealthy pond.”
The story structure is the most significant problem with the film. Rebecca is two-hours long, and it feels like four. Without getting into spoilers, there are two major swerves at the end of the first and second act. The twist of the first act has to do with the current Mrs. de Winter and her resemblance to her predecessor. But this revelation doesn’t occur until the one-hour mark.
Honestly, this entire act sets up the idea that the Lily James character can’t possibly live up to Rebecca’s legend or “ghostly presence.” If you’re familiar with stories of living up to the past, there’s nothing new here, and you’re going to get ahead of the story quickly. If you’re watching Rebecca at home on Netflix and not in the theater, the temptation to shut off the movie and move on to another is great. I felt that way four times while watching it. Thankfully that first swerve came in when it did, but you have to wait another 50 minutes for the next. It’s that same feeling of frustration and impatience all over again.
The best part of Rebecca is the final act, which is only ten-minutes long and quite impressive and brilliant. I’m not sure an hour and fifty minutes of predictable storytelling are worth the price to get to the end. One concession I’ll make is Lily James and Armie Hammer are very pretty and easy on the eyes. Also easy to look at are the gorgeous landscapes and exquisite costumes. That might be enough for some, just not me.
"…the story structure is the most significant problem..."