Review of the detective drama Rebecca

Pros: Beautiful scenery and costumes; good actors; Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas really try. Cons: The film simply follows the plot of the novel, without trying to somehow rethink and complement it; the picture is practically no different from the 1940 film; Ben Wheatley doesn’t know how to build up suspense and clumsily adds a mystical component Rebecca / “Rebecca”

Genre detective drama
Directed by Ben Wheatley
Starring: Lily James (2nd Mrs. de Winter), Armie Hammer (Maxim de Winter), Kristin Scott Thomas (Mrs. Danvers), Sam Riley (Jack Favell), Ann Dowd (Mrs. Van Hopper), Mark Lewis Jones (Inspector Welsh) and etc.
Studios Working Title Films, Netflix
Year of release 2020
Site IMDb

Until recently, director Ben Wheatley was not noted for his particular love for English classics, gothic novels and detective stories. All of his works are crime black comedies and horror films, and the pinnacle of his career is the controversial dystopia High-Rise with Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons and the chamber crime black comedy Free Fire / “Shootout” with Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer and Brie Larson. To be honest, it is not at all clear why the film adaptation of the novel, recognized as one of the best detective books of the 20th century, was entrusted to him.

Rebecca / “Rebecca” tells the story of a young girl who became the second wife of the aristocrat Maxim de Winter and came to his family estate, where everything is connected with the name of his deceased previous wife, Rebecca, who was loved by all the servants and relatives. It’s hard for a living girl to compete with an ideal dead girl… However, these are not all the problems of young Mrs. de Winter.

The novel by writer Daphne Du Maurier was published in the UK in August and in the US in September 1938 and sold so well that the US publisher printed additional copies ten times. The first circulation in the UK amounted to a very good 60 thousand copies. Since then, the book has been reprinted literally every year and has been translated into all major languages ​​of the world. Already in 1939, Daphne Du Maurier reworked the novel into a play, which was staged in London and ran for 350 performances.


At the same time, in 1939, the rights to film the novel were bought by a small independent Hollywood studio, Selznick International Pictures, created by David Selznick, whose father was a Kyiv Jew who emigrated to the United States. During its short history, the studio has released several famous films. The first of them is the legendary Gone with the Wind, nominated in 1939 for thirteen (!) Oscars and collecting eight (!) statuettes. And the second… directed by 40-year-old Alfred Hitchcock, Rebecca / “Rebecca”, released in 1940, and received only two of the eleven Oscars for which it was nominated. Thus, David Selznick became the only person in Hollywood history to receive an Oscar for Best Picture two years in a row.

The film by Hitchcock, who had not yet managed to earn a reputation as a master of suspense, is also notable for its cast. The role of the second Mrs. de Winter (the character is never named in either the novel or the film adaptation) in the 1940 film was played by the magnificent Joan Fontaine, who received her Oscar in 1942 for her role in another Hitchcock film, Suspicion ” But the greatest British actor of all time, Laurence Olivier, who played Maxim de Winter, received a gold statuette four times and was nominated for an Oscar as many as thirteen times.

“Rebecca” has been filmed five times as a feature film, including, for example, in India, and more than a dozen times on TV. Despite the fact that Daphne Du Maurier herself was against writing a sequel to the novel, the book was “finished” three more times after the writer’s death with the permission of her heirs. Daphne Du Maurier herself also became famous for one of her short stories, which formed the basis for the film “The Birds” by the same Hitchcock.


As you understand, Ben Wheatley, who is not very fond of classics anyway, was faced with a simply impossible task. Competing with Alfred Hitchcock, David Selznick, Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier? We sing a song to the madness of the brave!

And although Wheatley and Netflix invited very good actors to the film adaptation, they are still far from the legendary stars of the 40s. Lily James, of course, is already used to filming in such settings, but she still lacks experience. Armie Hammer (by the way, did you know that he is the great-grandson of the legendary businessman Armand Hammer, a friend of Lenin and sponsor of President Nixon?), although he earned deserved praise for his role in Call Me by Your Name, looks too stiff. Yes, this should be the case according to the plot, but it is very difficult to reveal such a hero, and Hammer more likely failed than succeeded. Good in the film is Kristin Scott Thomas, who has experience on her side, a BAFTA for Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and a Laurence Olivier Award (what an irony!) for her role in The Seagull. But alas, her Mrs. Danvers (who is actually the main character of “Rebecca”) was simply not allowed to open up.


In general, Wheatley’s adaptation follows almost word for word the text of Daphne Du Maurier’s novel and the 1940 film adaptation. The only difference from Hitchcock’s film adaptation, which was somewhat cut by self-censorship, is that the accident was replaced with murder, as was originally in the novel, plus the place and manner of another death were changed. But overall it’s really minor, Rebecca (2020) doesn’t add anything new to what’s shown in Rebecca (1940). It’s a neat copy, nothing more, a little more colorful, but still just a copy.

Moreover, in those moments when Wheatley tries to add suspense or elements of mysticism to the picture, he fails. “Rebecca” is a pure and fairly simple detective story with elements of a romantic story; the mysticism here is simply unnecessary, especially inserted so crudely and ineptly.


Rebecca (2020) is a beautiful, expensive film. There are gorgeous sets and costumes here. The actors in the main roles really try to tell us an interesting story, but the director does not help them with this. It’s straightforward, boring, and just a copy of a Hitchcock film. But overall, Rebecca even looks good, despite the length of some episodes. The picture pleases the eye with the bright colors of the Cote d’Azur and the restrained, austere beauty of Cornwall. But behind the beautiful picture it’s completely empty.

If you haven’t seen the 1940 original or the other Rebecca adaptations, the 2020 film is a good introduction to the classic. Just don’t be surprised if you find some similarities in it with other works, a book from the 30s. last century were accused of plagiarism.


The new film adaptation of “Rebecca” is simply superfluous, this picture does not add anything to what was said 80 years ago

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