A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rebecca, based on the same novel as the 1940 Hitchcock film, is a mature mystery with more psychological than graphic content. The main character feels out of place as the new wife of a wealthy man, and her new home feels haunted by her husband's much-remembered first wife. A sinister housekeeper contributes to her discomfort, tricking her into missteps and at one point seeming to urge her to jump out a window. The husband has a bad temper and occasionally lashes out at her only to sweetly apologize later, and it turns out he too is suffering past emotional trauma. Graphic violence includes talk of suicide and murder, a loaded gun pointed directly at someone, a house set on fire, a man punched in the nose, a woman jumping off a cliff, and a body found dead at sea. Sex is only alluded to after passionate embraces and kissing, and is discussed mostly tangentially except for one accusation of "trapping" a man "between your legs." There's an awareness of social class, drinking and some smoking, and language that includes "damn," "imbecile," "fool," "idiot," "stupid," "ghastly," "bugger off," and "bloody annoying."
- Parents say
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What's the story?
A young woman (Lily James) makes a significant social jump when she weds wealthy widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) after a short romance on the Riviera in REBECCA. But when the couple moves home to his imposing family estate, Manderley, things begin to spiral out of control. Maxim's first wife, Rebecca, who died under mysterious circumstances, still feels oddly present. The staff of Manderley, especially stern housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas), are still wholly devoted to Rebecca and sabotage the new bride's ability to settle in. The new Mrs. de Winter feels her grip on reality slowly loosening as a mystery involving Rebecca's death and her husband's role in it begins to unfold.
Is it any good?
Even without the Hitchcock original demanding unfavorable comparison, this adaptation comes across as a not-entirely-successful venture. Rebecca will still draw plenty of audiences, and there may be those who prefer this longer, prettier version with its newish bookends (the extended courtship on the Riviera and a finale in Cairo following a trial). The entire venture has good bones thanks to the original 1938 novel, previous screen adaptations for reference, and beautifully-crafted period settings and costumes meant to additionally evoke classical Hollywood style. But the remaining elements simply don't pull together well enough to summon the story's natural suspense or even a deep interest in the characters.
Scott Thomas is the most compelling in her tight-lipped take on the scheming Mrs. Danvers, but Hammer feels surprisingly stiff. In trying to paint Maxim as emotionally distant, the character instead comes across as lacking profundity. James is believable as the ingénue at the film's start, but less so as the take-charge wife at the end. Parts of her developing psychological breakdown are handled especially clumsily, like one heavy-handed fusion of images of James collapsing, red-lit party-goers chanting "Rebecca," a body floating in the water, and fireworks exploding. Forgoing some of the moodiness and dark tones of the original and extending the narration to just over two hours have ultimately undermined the power of this story.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the comparison of this Rebecca to Hitchcock's 1940 version, if you've seen it. What was different? What was the same? What did you like about each?
The makers of this film say it's a new adaptation of the original 1938 novel by Daphne de Maurier rather than a remake. What's the difference?
This film is meant to look like a classical Hollywood movie. Can you identify in what ways?
What role does the imposing estate of Manderley play in this film? Could it be considered another character in the story? How so?
- On DVD or streaming: October 21, 2020
- Cast: Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas
- Director: Ben Wheatley
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sexual content, partial nudity, thematic elements and smoking
- Last updated: December 19, 2020
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