Rebecca (2020) Review

Rebecca (2020) Review

By Spoiler Steve

This article contains full spoilers for both the 1940 and 2020 adaptations

Eighty years between adaptations and for some reason Ben Wheatly, Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse could barely provide any entertaining or intriguing reinvention to Daphne Du Maurier’s famous novel. Whether it was due to Hitchcock’s legacy or too many cooks in the kitchen that caused this film to fall flat, there’s no reason for this remix to exist. Everything in this film feels rushed. With the rushed meet-cute and the choppy editing, by the time everything’s meant to matter nothing feels earned, almost as if the movie is in a rush to finish. 

Photo: Netflix

To start, the movie should have begun when the new DeWinter couple arrives at Manderley. There was a missed opportunity by not giving us the main point of views of both Mrs. DeWinter and Mrs. Danvers, portrayed by Kristin Scott Thomas. This movie makes the first 20 minutes feel rushed and we needed another 10-20 minutes to let this relationship between Lily James and Armie Hammer breathe in order for us to believe Mrs. DeWinter’s reaction when she learns she’s leaving Europe with her employer Mrs. Van Hopper, played by Ann Dowd. It would feel more devastating to the viewer and would help James’ reaction feel more real.   

Ironically, Dowd has the best performance but is only in the first act. Thomas does a fine job as Mrs. Danvers but I’d say she’s barely a two-dimensional character, let alone three. Lily James does what she can as the new Mrs. DeWinter, where we’re never given her first and/or maiden name. 

While we only had Maxim DeWinter in what felt like a minimal role, it might have been better if we only had him in the beginning and the end of the story. If we had Hammer and James show up to Manderley in the beginning of the movie and he leaves after ten minutes of screen time until James begins to put together what really happened to Rebecca, it might have possibly helped the final reveal at the doctor’s office feel more than a daytime soap opera reveal.  

Photo: Netflix

The few changes that are in the film are disappointing and underwhelming. The rest is almost scene-by-scene the same as Hitchcock’s version to the point where I don’t have a good reason to vindicate this version. I don’t understand why the creators of this film felt they had to make this movie almost the exact remake as Hitchcock’s version but then we have movies based on true events and half those storylines are dramatized for thematic effect.

One of the few changes is how Mrs. DeWinter adapts her dress. She plans to honor a painting of a woman in a formal red dress who her maid claims is Maxim’s aunt. But unbeknownst to Mrs. DeWinter, Rebecca did something similar and this naturally insults Mr. DeWinter which leaves Mrs. DeWinter confused and hurt. The whole reveal of the culprit behind the idea felt like the ending to a Scooby Doo episode with James finding out it was Thomas all along. *Gasp!*

Photo: Netflix

At times when they’re trying to insinuate Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca might have had some type of intimate relationship, the original does a better job at hinting it being sexual while this version makes Mrs. Danvers feels like a combination of an older sister/mother figure and a disgruntled teacher who’s only prized student was Rebecca. 

Another dissatisfying scene was when the DeWinters drive back to Manderley after the big cancer reveal. The entire scene is ruined because it feels more like dawn than the middle of the night and ruins the colossal image of the estate burning up in flames. To make the ending worse, Danvers decides to drown herself by jumping off a cliff. This reeks of the feeling that producers were forcing the ending to be different than Hitchcock’s version and after months of arguing this was the best they could come up with in the short amount of time they had left before filming. At least, that is what I hope because the ending feels lazy.

Photo: Netflix

All this being said, this does have great cinematography by Laurie Rose. She captures the colors beautifully. The set design looks great and the filter applied gives the film a great vintage feel but  it is almost impossible to not compare this to the first adaption. There’s no denying the film is well shot and the actors are trying, but there’s nothing worth seeing if you’ve already seen Hitchcock’s 1940 classic. 

My rating: 7/10

Hear the full spoiler review here.

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