Watching “Rebecca” feels like eating a fancy 12-course meal, being left hungry by the end, and then getting In-N-Out to forget about the time and money you just wasted.
“Rebecca” is an adaptation of the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier and follows a young woman, (Lily James, “Cinderella”, “Baby Driver”) who falls in love with a mysterious widower named Maxim de Winter, (Armie Hammer, “Call Me By Your Name”, “The Social Network”) and moves into his estate. All around are reminders of his previous wife Rebecca, who suddenly and mysteriously died prior.
As the new Mrs. de Winter explores the estate, she slowly uncovers who exactly this Rebecca woman is, and who Mrs. Danvers, (Kristin Scott Thomas, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “The English Patient”), the head housekeeper is.
With a plot like this, it can be easy to go many different directions with this. Possibly focus on the romance between Mr. and Mrs. de Winter, and moving past Rebecca’s death. Or it could have gone more in line with a mystery, with Mrs. de Winter slowly uncovering the truth about Rebecca’s death.
Instead, the film has a difficult time deciding whether it wants to be a historical romance, or a psychological thriller.
Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t know what identity it wants to take on, trying to do all of these things at the same time without doing any of them well. This can be especially apparent with the lead actors, who despite their best efforts are hampered by inconsistent direction.
The pacing also has room for improvement. The movie’s runtime is just over two hours, and doesn’t pick up until the last half hour, where the circumstances behind Rebecca’s death is revealed.
By that point, I was just ready for the movie to do anything other than tell me how mysterious this Rebecca person is, without it doing anything to show it. The movie would have been a much more intriguing experience if it spent more time showing why the new Mrs. de Winter is living under Rebecca’s shadow, rather than every character telling her she can’t live up to her.
In addition, many otherwise interesting scenes were weighed down by quick, distracting edits that took away from the drama of the scene. At points, it felt like watching the scene in a heist movie where one person is hacking the computers, while another is breaking into the facility. The movie would have benefited from a slower paced editing style to match the mysterious atmosphere it tries to convey.
Despite the mediocre execution of the storytelling, the set and costume design is absolutely well executed, and should be commended. Each costume was impeccably designed and fully captures the extravagant wealth of Mr. de Winter and the other wealthy members of society.
If you’re interested in the premise of this movie, I’d suggest watching Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation, which won an Oscar for best picture, or reading the original book. But as for this adaptation, it’s a hard pass.