Run time: 122 mins
Classical Hollywood studio filmmaking meets scrappy, British indie auteur – Ben Wheatly isn’t an obvious choice to take on Daphne du Maurier’s gothic romance.
Yet for those who aren’t into his brand of weird, I’m happy to report that this update is a straightforward affair. Perhaps unsurprisingly so; it’s one of those novels where any changes could be considered treason.
The setting is Monte Carlo; desperate to escape the clutches of her odious employer, Lily James jumps at the chance to accompany the handsome Maxim DeWinter (Armie Hammer) on several daytime activities. Over a week or two, the pair fall for each other. Even the revelation that DeWinter’s wife, the mysterious Rebecca, recently passed away in suspicious circumstances doesn’t stop James’ naive protagonist from snapping his hand when he proposes. So back to Manderley they go, and it’s at this Cornwall estate where the wheels start to come off. Kristin Scott Thomas’ delicious performance as the vicious housekeeper Mrs Danvers, is the one element of the modern Rebecca that surpasses Hitchcock’s take.
Personally, I would have preferred a little more Wheatley bite, but this handsome adaptation is nevertheless sumptuous and sweeping. (Jack Whiting)