Rebecca is based on the 1938 gothic novel of the same name, there was also the 1940 Oscar winning adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock and a 1997 BBC miniseries starring Charles Dance and the late Dame Diana Rigg, who won an Emmy Award for her role as Mrs. Danvers. Although don’t expect any nominations for Netflix’s 2020 adaptation.
I haven’t read the novel nor seen any of the mentioned adaptations, so I am seeing the film and learning about the story from fresh eyes, Rebecca (2020) is in a way, like a twisted take on the Cinderella story, which is interesting considering that Lily James who plays the unnamed narrator was Cinderella in Disney’s live action adaptation. This naive narrator marries Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) a wealthy widower and as if Armie Hammer was not a “catch” himself, he is also the owner of ‘Manderley’ a palatial like estate which used to hold parties and balls – so yes, more of the Cinderella reference, also instead of a king fairy godmother we have the creepy and cunning housekeeper Mrs. Danvers played by Kristin Scott Thomas.
While it would be assumed that it would all be a ‘happy ending’ things start to unravel with the memory of the first Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca haunts Maxim, the house and its staff. There is also of course, the mystery of Rebecca’s untimely demise which also looms like a dark shadow.
The twisted Cinderella take may be a nice touch, yet ‘Rebecca’ is not as neatly tied as one would hope, for one, its genre seems to be moving from romance to horror to thriller and some may even say, a coming-of-age for our unnamed narrator.
Also, it isn’t particularly clear who the real villain is, perhaps in a way, they all were. An interesting two hour watch, perhaps a not too scary film to see before Halloween~Armie Hammer and Lily James are perfect for their roles. Kristin Scott Thomas is a creepy enough Mrs. Danvers, I wish they gave her more to do though, also the editing seemed sloppy at times, I thought some of the dialogue wasn’t dubbed over the right parts, that’s me though – don’t know if you could see it as well.
Much like recent works in the genre, the film also touches on real life horrors, such as that marriage is presented as an aspiration for women (especially in the 1940s) and what a horror it would be, if you were alone, unmarried or worse-divorced. As if marriage was the only acceptable status, even if it is one that is loveless and a sham. It also sheds a light into staying in toxic relationships, and between staying in a toxic relationship and ghosts, I think the former is truly more frightening.