I remember the first time I witnessed Robert Redford on screen in Natalie Wood’s Inside Daisy Clover. He’s was the epitome of a leading man harking back to Hollywood’s Golden Age. Handsome, charming, witty and oodles of talent always made him stand out from the the crowd. Armie Hammer, possesses that same movie star quality oozing charisma swirled with a mysterious, alluring sex appeal making him perfection of the role of Maxim DeWinter.
Based on the Daphne du Maurier novel and eventually made into a motion picture by Alfred Hitchcock starring Sir Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders and Gladys Cooper. Rebecca would become a critical and commercial success, receiving eleven Academy Award nominations, taking home Best Picture and Best Cinematography (shot in a B&W Gothic style). It is quintessential early Hitchcock suspense where you tend to jump in anticipation of the action, yet holding your breath the entire time.
Last night, I dreamed I went back to Manderley with the Netflix remake starring Hammer, Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers. When a young newlywed arrives at her husband’s sprawling family estate, she quickly finds herself battling the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy, spirit and energy lives on in the house long after her death. Unlike the original, this version is in bold, beautiful color while in Monte Carlo and quickly turns to grey, blues and green once returned to Manderley. Although Lily James slips into the role of Mrs. de Winter quite nicely and Armie Hammer is a bit more curse than his predecessor as Maxim, this film belongs to Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs. Danvers. Thomas inhabits the energy and conniving nature or Mrs. Danvers to perfection with a layered, complicated award winning performance. She literally is pure unadulterated evil at it was absolutely delicious. Lilly James masterfully captures the impish naive quality of Mrs. de Winter making you feel empathy, yet cheering her on when she finally gains the confidence to stand up for her self and Maxim. Emmy winner Ann Dowd as the always judgmentally shady Mrs. Van Hopper is see all too brief, but makes her appearance unforgettable. Kudos to Nina Gold for a brilliant job with stellar casting.
Screenplay writers Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse do a spectacular job keeping the storyline in tact with a few barbs here and there. Like when Mrs. Van Hopper quips after finding out her helper (Lily James) is marrying mr. de Winter, “…trap a man between your legs and he won’t stick around for very long,” makes you howl with laughter breaking up the suspense of the situation. Sarah Greenwood, who was also the Production Designer for Atonement, takes yes right back in time brilliantly as does the costume design of Julian Day.
Directed by Ben Wheatley, who provides a modernized score infusing English folk songs sprinkled throughout, Rebecca is a valiant effort to provide a fresh spin on a beloved classic. As for me, there are aspects of both I love and adore, for I’m always down for a good suspense thriller. Check it out as it begins streaming of Netflix on October 21st.