Rebecca reviews round-up: Critics underwhelmed by ‘disappointing’ Netflix remake

Ellie Harrison
·2-min read
Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers and Lily James as Mrs de Winter in Ben Wheatley’s ‘Rebecca' (Netflix)
Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers and Lily James as Mrs de Winter in Ben Wheatley’s ‘Rebecca' (Netflix)

The first reviews have dropped for Netflix’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic gothic novel, Rebecca, and critics appear to be disappointed.

The book, first published in 1938, has been adapted for the streaming giant by High Rise director Ben Wheatley. It will be released on Wednesday 21 October.

In the new film, Lily James stars as a young woman who falls in love with and marries recent widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), only to find his home haunted by the memories of his late first wife, the titular Rebecca.

Kristin Scott Thomas plays the cruel housekeeper Mrs Danvers, with Keeley Hawes and Ann Dowd also starring.

The film appears to have underwhelmed many reviewers, with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw writing in his two-star review that Hammer’s performance doesn’t live up to Laurence Olivier’s in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 version of the film.

“The problem is Max,” he wrote, “who is transformed into an obvious hunk. Hammer has seven times Olivier’s body mass, and he does not have his cold English abruptness or his suicidal misery. Hammer just looks too candid and upfront.”

He added: “It’s a shame that Ben Wheatley didn’t attempt anything like Hitchcock’s legendary suspense scene in France when the future second Mrs De Winter is ordered by her employer to pack for New York and she almost has to leave before Max can propose.”

Justin Chang, in the LA Times, called the film “disappointing” and said the actors failed to give it a “soul”.

He said: “The filmmakers seem curiously at sea over the purpose of their assignment, possessing neither the patience to plunge headlong into the story’s familiar depths nor the radicalism to reinvent it entirely.

“Their guiding instinct seems to have been to drench the proceedings in as much youthful Hollywood glamour as it can withstand, which more or less explains the casting of Armie Hammer as the GQ-iest Maxim de Winter ever to grace the screen.”

The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips deemed the remake “lousy” and “pretty, empty and emotionally frictionless”.

In a three-star review, Games Radar’s Kate Stables wrote that the “handsome, risk-taking Netflix remake sacrifices suspense for sweeping sadness”.

She added: “Appropriately for a story about an inescapable predecessor, Hitchcock’s cruel, taut movie haunts this adaptation, the way that Rebecca herself haunts Manderley.”

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