A new adaptation of the gothic romance/mystery novel Rebecca is here starring Lily James and Armie Hammer. This film has been on my radar all year long because I absolutely love both James and Hammer and was intrigued to see their cinematic coupling. The story was previously and famously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock who cast Joane Fontaine and Laurence Olivier in the lead roles. It was his only film ever to win best picture. So how does it stack up against what came before? Ironically the film is almost a metaphor for its unnamed lead character herself, always being compared to the high standard of what came before, and always feeling inferior.
Lily James plays our unnamed heroine, a woman who gets swept up in a passionate whirlwind romance with wealthy recent widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer.) The two hastily decide to marry in order to prevent their separation and soon James' character becomes the new Mrs. de Winter and Lady over his large estate. The problem is, the presence of Maxim's first wife, Rebecca, is felt all throughout the house. Not only that, but all of the servants make it known to the new Mrs. de Winter how much they preferred Rebecca to her. In fact, they paint Rebecca as an ethereal being that nobody could live up to. As Mrs. de Winter explores the grounds she discovers the house holds a mystery of what precisely became of Rebecca.
If there's one thing I can say for this version of Rebecca is that it is a beautiful movie with beautiful people in it. Truly, the cinematography is stunning, the costume design and production design are absolutely fabulous and Hammer & James make a truly beautiful couple. But at the same time, their couple and their characters in this movie don't really match what it's supposed to be in comparison with their novel counterparts, or the version that Hitchcock brought to life. Of course, they can interpret the text however they like...but it changes the nature of the story the way they're portrayed here. Lily James is anything but mousy, and movies can never paint her that way no matter how hard they try (I'm looking at you Yesterday,) so she doesn't really fit the character of someone who could literally never match up to someone so exquisite because well...James is exquisite. And her relationship with Maxim is supposed to be so much more manipulative and a lot less...well whatever it is shown as here. In the other iterations of this story their romance wasn't actually fueled by passion, but more that he wanted someone meek and malleable. So basically... what the story should be gets lost in translation here. What remains? Well it's not Rebecca, but it's sure pretty to look at.