Netflix’s steamy mystery film “Rebecca” modernizes a Hitchcock classic.
When newlywed Mrs. de Winter (Lily James) arrives at her aristocratic husband’s (Armie Hammer) estate, she discovers the presence of his first wife, Rebecca, lingering in the home two years after her death. Feeling like an outsider, Mrs. de Winter finds herself trying to put the pieces of Rebecca’s mysterious life and death together while also dealing with the meddling estate staff.
The first takeaway from this movie is its grandeur. The production design is phenomenal, and the movie really does feel like it was filmed in early 20th century Europe, especially in scenes featuring the Manderley estate. The set design and costuming make this film a beauty to behold. It’s impossible to watch this movie and not look up Victorian-style mansions in England on Zillow right after.
The cinematography of this movie matches the production value well. Every shot complements the beautiful scenery. From sunny beaches in Monte Carlo to claustrophobic shots in the Manderley, this is one of the most beautiful movies of 2020. It also doesn’t hurt that one of the leads is Hollywood heartthrob Armie Hammer, whose steamy beach sequence with James is one of the major highlights of the movie.
The performances are good but don’t add much to the film. James and Hammer shine in the first 20 minutes as they fall in love and get married. After that, Hammer disappears from the plot for a good chunk of the movie while James is left to walk around the Manderley and figure out who Mr. de Winter’s late wife was. The only real source of fun comes from Kristin Scott Thomas’ portrayal of the villainous master of the house, Mrs. Danvers. Her terse exchanges with Mrs. de Winters help create tension in an otherwise bland mystery.
The real problem with “Rebecca” is its uneven pacing. It may be because this is a remake of a movie made almost 80 years ago, but the film’s first 20 minutes flash by as we establish the romance of Mr. and Mrs. de Winter only to be followed by an hour’s worth of Mrs. de Winter walking around and being confused by everything. Sometimes, the pacing feels downright frustrating, especially when in the last 30 minutes the mystery picks up and things become interesting again.
If the fat were trimmed from this movie and James spent less time pacing the halls, this Netflix original movie would have been a film Alfred Hitchcock himself might enjoy. Unfortunately, while this movie certainly looks and feels luxurious, it has little to offer plotwise. The mystery aspect is lacking, which is really sad to see in a remake of a Hitchcock movie, which are known for their mysteries. At least this movie has one thing Hitchock’s films didn’t have: color.
The best parts of this movie are the elegant set pieces and beautiful cinematography. “Rebecca’s” plot may be bland, but a Netflix subscription is a lot cheaper than a plane ticket to Europe. So if you ever want to see Monte Carlo, this will have to do for now.
3 Armie Hammer ganders out of 5