It’s ironic that Ben Wheatley’s Rebecca, a story about a newly-married woman who struggles to survive in the shadow of her husband’s dead first wife, wrestles to venture out of its own shadowy territory of not one but two formidable predecessors. There’s the 1938 source novel by Daphne du Maurier, of course, and on a cinematic level, the 1940 adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock remains one of the acclaimed filmmaker’s most beloved works. Wheatley’s version is sure to be forgotten in the sands of time along with countless other remakes that never managed to justify their existence in the first place.

It’s not necessarily replication that’s the problem. To call this new Rebecca a sheer facsimile feels unfair, as the film certainly brings its own style and approach to the table. But it’s still just as flimsy, thin and flat as the paper you’d pass through a fax machine, with very little substance in terms of the message that’s actually received. In the end, it all just feels empty and hollow, despite solid performances by the leading cast, particularly Lily James as Mrs. de Winter and a deliciously dedicated camp show by supporting player Kristin Scott Thomas. Armie Hammer, as tortured husband Maxim de Winter, is merely along for the ride, giving the reliable turn one would expect from the actor yet never quite reaching the levels of thematic nuance he lent to films like Call Me By Your Name.

The most haunting aspect of this Rebecca is its tedium and dullness, and this arises mostly through how the film is presented. Wheatley’s filmography is well-versed in horror; in fact, most of his works would fit comfortable in the genre. But the horror he executes in films such as 2011’s Kill List and 2012’s Sightseers has little in common with the gothic atmosphere that is demanded from a story like this.

If anything feels like a copy, it’s not the plot, but rather the entire aesthetic style, as everything feels fabricated in a way that never feels authentic. One gets the sense of a filmmaker who is bored with his material rather than being entranced by it, which he should be, as this story is as richly textured and filled with opportunity as they come. So, as viewers, we can’t be blamed for simply following suit and feeding into the banality.

That’s not to say the film is without any ambition, as Rebecca has plenty to spare, but in the end Wheatley does nothing memorable that truly cements itself in the mind. Moments after the movie ends, don’t be surprised if you find it already floating away like debris in the wind. It has a heart, but it beats slowly and quietly, lulling us into a sense of calm monotony that never quite amounts to anything more than what it is — a Netflix remake that is sure to be just another flavor of the week.

One gets the sense of a filmmaker who is bored with his material rather than being entranced by it.
48 %
A Dull Haunt
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