Wednesday, October 21, 2020



A young and naïve lady-in-waiting (Lily James) works for a wealthy old woman vacationing in Monte Carlo. There she gets to brush elbows with the rich, one of them being affluent widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). Aloof at first due to the recent death of his wife Rebecca, the two get along quickly and develop feelings for each other, so fast that when her boss plans a sudden relocation to New York, he intervenes and asks for her hand in marriage. Soon enough, Mr. and Mrs. de Winter 2.0 are on their way to his sprawling estate in England. Manderley, they call it, managed by a village of staff overseen by Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), an old lady who has devoted her life to the first Mrs. de Winter and just would not shut up about her. It doesn’t take long before the new Mrs. de Winter feels sorely out of place and constantly living in the shadow of the wife who came before her.

Again, it is a game of comparing originals and remakes. In the case of Rebecca, the backlash has been quite strong despite the original taking Hollywood by storm 80 years ago already. Why? It was Alfred Hitchcock’s Hollywood debut. The film was so popular back then, it was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and launched Joan Fontaine’s career. Big shoes to fill, Netflix. I have not seen the original, which I guess contributed to how I actually ended up enjoying this movie more than I probably should have.

The first few acts in Monte Carlo are your typical holiday themed narrative which results in a whirlwind romance between two people from different social backgrounds. That is the honeymoon part. Once the newlyweds head to the mansion, the tone shifts to dark and mysterious. While anyone watching this might probably expect to see Rebecca’s ghost out of the blue, it just does not happen. This is not a horror film. Even then, her presence is just so strong despite her non-appearance.

Rebecca’s name is mentioned ad nauseam by just about everyone in the cast. Despite not making a single apparition, her metaphorical ghost just haunts everybody. Heck, she even got the movie named after her! From the perspective of the new and younger second wife, that must be one hell of a dilemma, even worse than an actual ghost haunting. As such, it is much better to view the narrative from her perspective, just to feel her burden while trying to put two and two together regarding who and what Rebecca really was.

Yes, that forms part of the greater mystery. What happened to perfect Rebecca? Did she really drown or was she drowned? Was she as pristine as everyone makes her to be? Why is that old hag Mrs. Danvers so obsessed with her? Do we really know Mr. de Winter or is he hiding a terrible secret that will shock us in the end? Lots of questions that will surely keep you intrigued as the plot unfolds. As such, judging from the material itself, I think this is a worthwhile thriller of the psychological kind, further exacerbated by the eerie atmosphere at the mansion as well as the maddening feeling of alienation Mrs. de Winter 2.0 has to endure.

Taking those aspects into consideration, you will still enjoy the film if you want to indulge your inner Sherlock Holmes as far as the mystery angle is concerned. At least you will have something to keep you distracted from the other inconsistencies of the remake, if you are a big fan of the original, that is. As for the performances, James and Hammer are okay in spite of the seemingly lack of chemistry. If anything, it is Scott Thomas who steals the show with her shrewd and annoying Mrs. Danvers.

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