"Rebecca" (M) *** and a half
I’VE not read Daphne du Maurier’s best-selling romantic Gothic novel published in 1938. After reading Wikipedia’s précis of its plot, I see no reason to.
It’s about an unnamed young woman who impetuously marries a wealthy widower, only to discover that he and his household are haunted by the memory of Rebecca, his late first wife.
A best-seller that has never gone out of print, "Rebecca" sold 2.8 million copies between its publication in 1938 and 1965. It has been adapted numerous times for stage and screen, including a 1939 play by du Maurier herself, and the film "Rebecca" (1940), starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Is this version adapted by Jane Goldman and Joe Shrapnel, and directed by Ben Wheatley, a good movie?
Against my natural inclination, I confess that I found its 129 minutes entertaining, its thesis compelling and its environment persuasive.
Its staging may not be perfect – the sharp eye may detect the odd continuity shortcoming – but it’s well performed by Lily James as Mrs de Winter, Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter, Keeley Hawes as Beatrice Lacey and Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers.
I was aware of Mrs Danvers before I had more than a smattering of a notion of what the plot was about. After seeing this film, I suspect that she and the erotically-voracious Rebecca might have been lovers. She’s a character in playing whom an actress can pull out all the stops and let her rip. Which Scott Thomas does. She’s in good company – in the 1940 version, Judith Anderson played her. In 1997, Diana Rigg played her in a two-episode TV version. Danvers is an enigma in any medium.
And for motoring buffs, the de Winter wheels is a Bentley convertible in gold duco, a car to die for. But not to take into the bush.
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Ian Meikle, editor