Rebecca ★★½

Rebecca (Ben Wheatley, 2020) 5/10

I've been waiting in dread ever since it was announced that my favourite Hitchcock film was getting another big screen remake. It's always rather unfair to any remake to be compared to the original but its inevitable that one ends up doing it. The original in this case is a much loved classic and a masterpiece to boot. I never understand why Hollywood churns out remakes. An answer always given is that it is to reintroduce a classic to younger generations. But damnit the original is not dead and buried. It is still very much around and should instead be revived for today's youth. No doubt this retread is handsomely produced. The vintage stately homes used as the backdrop for Daphne du Maurier's "Manderley" are spectacular as are the location shots of the Devon countryside, cliffs and coastline. And Armie Hammer looks dashing in his striking yellow suit but does he have to wear it three days running? No gentleman would repeat an outfit as glaringly bright as that. The screenplay pretty much follows the book (and the 1940 film version) but differs slightly at the end when it veers off hilariously into "Nancy Drew" territory and then caps that moment with a ridiculously melodramatic finale. The film also lacks the spooky atmosphere and suspense of the Hitchcock version. A shy young girl (Lily James), companion to a rich and vulgar American (Ann Dowd), meets the enigmatic widower Max de Winter (Armie Hammer) in Monte Carlo. After a whirlwind courtship he marries her and takes her back to his family estate, Manderley, in Cornwall. She immediately finds herself in over her head in her new surroundings. Adding to her woes is the intimidating housekeeper, Mrs Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), who never lets a moment go by singing the praises of Rebecca, the first lady of the house, who died under mysterious circumstances. The entire cast compares unfavourably to the actors in the older version - Laurence Olivier as brooding Max de Winter, Joan Fontaine as the frightened new bride, the great Judith Anderson as Mrs Danvers, the hilariously vulgar Florence Bates and Gladys Cooper, Nigel Bruce and George Sanders. Hammer comes off much better than James who cannot shake off her modern sensibility in a story set during the 1930s. Scott Thomas has been directed to emulate Judith Anderson - they probably didn't want to veer too far off with this famous character. She captures the deadpan stillness but fails to get across the lesbian undertones that Judith Anderson brought to the part. The sad thing about such remakes is that it draws today's audiences even further away from the old classic version. Its playing on Netflix so millions will get to watch it yet many will never even know that there is a better version out there. Now that is something truly sad to contemplate.