Movies

A Romance Masquerading as Horror

Spoiler-Free Movie Review:

Rebecca (2020)

Rating: 4 out of 10 stars

Intro

I had high expectations for this movie. The trailer was intriguing and even looked spooky. Unfortunately, the movie did not satisfy. I haven’t read the book it is based on, so I cannot compare the two, but I have heard that the book is much better.

Background

This version of Rebecca was released in 2020 and is based on a novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. It fits into the genre of romantic thriller. The movie stars Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ann Dowd, Keeley Hawes, and Sam Riley.

Summary

An unnamed newlywed woman is brought to Manderley, her husband Maxim de Winter’s English estate. There she desires to live happily, but cannot help contending with the memory of Rebecca, Maxim’s first wife. She feels threatened by Mrs. Danver’s, a servant in the house who was intensely loyal to Rebecca. As she spends more time at Manderley, the details of Rebecca’s life start to fall into place and mysteries begin to unravel.

Pros

  • Narrative voice at the beginning compelling
  • Acting by Kristen Scott Thomas was excellent
  • Several memorable quotes
  • Not very predictable
  • General setting attractive, especially Manderley

Cons

  • Most of the acting fell flat
  • Suspense was lacking
  • The protagonist was unnamed, which felt unnecessary
  • Maxim de Winter’s signature mustard yellow suit looks terrible
  • The trailer suggested undertones of horror that were never realized in the film
  • The movie dragged and then wound up too quickly

Review

Narrative Voice

The story begins with narration by the unnamed protagonist:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. I dreamt that where our drive once lay, a dark and tortured jungle grew. Nature had come into her own and yet the house still stood. Manderley. Secretive and silent as it had always been. Risen from the dead. Like all dreamers, I was allowed to pass through my memory. Spanning the years like a bridge. Back to that summer in Monte Carlo when I knew nothing and had no prospects.”

This imaginative language drew me into the story. I only wish that the story had merited such a beginning.

Acting

The acting by Kristen Scott Thomas (Mrs. Danvers) was excellent. Watching her subtle expression when she welcomed the protagonist into the house gave an immediate indicator of how well her character was going to be portrayed. Her loyalty to Rebecca seemed intense and sincere, as did her hatred of the new Mrs. de Winters.

Armie Hammer (Maxim de Winter) came off differently. It was like he was trying to play the wrong role. His intimacy was too intimate, and his subsequent coldness was too cold. It was as if he were trying to act out two separate roles, and that made the romance hard to enjoy.

Lily James (Mrs. de Winter) made for a timid protagonist that it was easy to feel sorry for but hard to really root for.

Suspense

There’s not much to say about suspense. There wasn’t any. For there to be suspense, you have to care what’s going to happen to the characters, and I really didn’t.

Sure, it wasn’t very predictable, but that cannot in itself create suspense. There has to be emotional investment in the movie for suspense to exist.

Quotes

There were a couple good quotes from Maxim, and one notable one from Mrs. Danvers.

I’m asking you to marry me, you little fool.”

Maxim de Winter

Not the most romantic line, but pretty unique. I doubt I would appreciate being called a little fool, but whatever. If that’s her thing.

All marriages have their secrets.”

Maxim de Winter

Again, not the most romantic thing one could say. I mean, it’s probably true. Most married people likely keep secrets from each other, but most people are not blunt enough to come out and say it. Trust and communication are not Maxim’s strong points, even though that’s what relationships need to be stable and healthy.

I wonder what’s she’s thinking about you.”

Mrs. Danvers

This line, delivered with finesse by Mrs. Danvers to the new Mrs. de Winter, is chilling. The “she” in the quote is the late Mrs. Rebecca de Winter. It’s one of those lines that make it seem like the movie is pretending to be a horror film. The trailer itself gives off horror vibes, and you get the feeling from the trailer that this is some ghost story, but it really is not. Nonetheless, this quote fits with the creepiness of Mrs. Danvers extremely well.

Setting

The setting is beautiful, whether it’s Manderley itself, the beach, the restaurants–all of it. The detail taken with the house made and the way the protagonist interacted with the things in the house made it all too clear how out of place the protagonist felt.

Details

The fact that the protagonist was never named bothered me. I know the movie was keeping with the tradition in the novel and earlier adaptation of not naming her, but this doesn’t really constitute an excuse. Why was she never named in the movie? It’s frustrating trying to refer to her and having nothing to call her before she is married and nothing to call her afterwards other than Mrs. de Winters after she is married. Names are so strongly tied into who people are. They, in a sense, make their names mean something by their actions. The fact that she doesn’t have a name makes her seem like a non-person, a non-character or like an extra with too many lines.

There isn’t any reason given during the movie for her not having a name, and her husband never uses it, which is so weird. Even when I am talking to my friends, I address them by name. How much more would this be true if I were in an intimate romantic relationship with someone?

Screenrant has an interesting article about why she was not named and regards it as a creative choice, but I still think it was an unfortunate decision.

Maxim de Winter’s suit near the beginning couldn’t help but call to mind images of the Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George. I don’t like the mustard color. He also wears this outfit repeatedly during their courtship period. He’s a rich dude, so he should be able afford some changes of clothes and at least something more aesthetically pleasing. I checked to see if I was the only one with this opinion, but looking at the reviews on IMDb, it seems I am not alone.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t recommend this movie for anyone, honestly. I would say it’s rating of PG-13 is reasonable due to sexual content, but there is nothing scary about Rebecca.

Rating System

If you are interested in how I rate movies, check out my rating system.

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