Movie Review | Rebecca
A not so happy ending for anyone involved...
Movie summary: A young newlywed arrives at her husband's imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives on in the house long after her death. (Google)
Rebecca is one of those movies that I genuinely had no idea about what was going to happen, having never read the original novel nor having seen any previous adaptation. In all honesty, I thought this was going to end up being a horror movie after getting halfway through, thanks to the brilliantly creepy and paranoid atmosphere that had been built up.
Everything was really reminding me of Crimson Peak, with a young girl (Lily James, whose character is never given a first name) marrying a wealthy widower and struggling to fit in at his intimidatingly huge home. Not that I was expecting any ghosts to show up like in that movie, but more along the lines of Get Out and a murderously dark secret to be revealed.
Director Ben Wheatley so expertly creates an uncomfortable atmosphere for James's character that - much like her - you start seeing opposition, enemies and reasons to be fearful in almost every waking moment of her day. It helps that James is so incredibly easy to like that you can't help but empathise with her and the situation she finds herself in.
The problem is that it all builds up to pretty much nothing, not helped by so many scenes that feel like they're simply reinforcing how out of her depth James' character is at her husband's family home. Not that he helps, with Armie Hammer shining as Maxim de Winter, who is almost as uncomfortable as his new wife, but not for the same reason.
A certain discovery is made around the two-thirds point of the movie and then it switches from paranoid thriller to a rather tame legal drama that peters out rather quickly. This is so disappointing after how well the tension and atmosphere was built up before the reveal, especially when you consider how many movies and TV shows have excellent legal plots.
Rebecca feels like a completely different movie for this last part, and not a very good one either. I have no idea if the source material is to blame, but considering that the 1940 Alfred Hitchcock version won Best Picture at the Oscars I'm going to assume not and that it's simply a case of the creative team behind the movie simply being unable to gel the two sections together as a working whole.
To be clear, the blame absolutely can't go on the cast, especially not Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas nor Sam Riley - the latter pair proving to be even worse than initial impressions might imply. That's not a spoiler either - at least, not to me - as both of them are very easy to dislike and be wary of from the scenes in which they are introduced.
It really is a case of the ending completely collapsing and being unable to provide a finale worthy of the excellent build-up it's given. I was really, really enjoying Rebecca and am genuinely annoyed that my lasting memory of this memory is going to be one of frustration over what could've been.
Rebecca's not a short movie either, lasting just over two hours and not feeling worthy of that length, even if the 1940 version was a little longer. There are a few scenes when the newlyweds return to Maxim's home that feel a little superfluous and made me check how much longer there was to go as a result, but that's pretty much my only real criticism of the movie's first section.
Rebecca starts off really well, laying the grounds for what appeared to be a paranoid psychological thriller, but fades away the longer the movie goes on and ends pretty limply. It's not that there isn't the material to work with to create a compelling climax, it's just not done anywhere near as well as the first two thirds and drags everything down with it.