Netflix’s Rebecca: The Devil Is In the Details

I dreamed I opened up my copy of Rebecca again.

It’s old. The cover is a textured blue-grey cloth, torn along the browner binding and stained along the front. It looks and is greasy in places, like it was recently handled by several old ladies who read at night after applying their hand cream. The pages aren’t just yellowed, they are toasted: the outer edges more brown than their inner pages. It lays flat no matter where you open it, as if to say that you’ll get exactly what you’re looking for, no matter where you look. 

I don’t know who owned my copy of Rebecca before me. It’s a 1945 reprint of the 1938 bestseller. I bought it second hand in the 1990s when I was in high school. Unlike everything in Manderley embroidered with remnants of its former owner, my Rebecca is orphaned. There’s an old, personalized label half torn from the inner front cover, all identifying information excoriated, the cardboard underneath wounded. There is a penciled notation of “49” in one corner. It smells a bit like vanilla and walnuts. I haven’t read it in decades. But I love it.

The book reminds me very particularly of Manderley. I can see its barely tattered, secret-ridden spine on a shelf in the western wing as easily as I can see those windows that look out upon the sea. 

Rebecca never lacks for imagery. Atmospheric or otherwise. Whether you’re talking about the story itself, an old worn copy of it, or the original film by Alfred Hitchcock. In all of those, it is the little things in Rebecca that haunt. The tangible bits you can pick up and place back down just so that create the full picture of who Rebecca de Winter was, and what she means.

And finally, the newest remake of this perfect Gothic novel is ready for our collective judgement. Netflix just released the trailer for Lily James and Armie Hammer’s Rebecca. 


I mean, ok. Netflix’s official synopsis for “Rebecca” reads:

“After a whirlwind romance in Monte Carlo with handsome widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), a newly married young woman (Lily James) arrives at Manderley, her new husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast. Naive and inexperienced, she begins to settle into the trappings of her new life, but she finds herself battling the shadow of Maxim’s first wife, the elegant and urbane Rebecca, whose haunting legacy is kept alive by Manderley’s sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas).”

No one looks better sun-drenched, wealthy, and near a coast than Armie Hammer. But Maxim de Winter is not a character tanned in the south of France. He’s a hulking menace of the English coast, escaping those cliffs for others. And Lily James, perfect ingenue face that she has, seems slightly less impressionable and naive than the future Mrs. de Winter should. Too beautiful to be preyed and put upon. Too modern to be intimated by the bits and bobs of her predecessor.

I’ll leave final judgement to when I see it, but I’m slightly worried about this chemistry. What makes Armie Hammer mysterious and electric in movies like Call Me By Your Name is his scene partner. What makes Lily James interesting in movies like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society is her scene partner. Can we get Michiel Huisman and Timothée Chalamet in this instead?

No matter. The best chemistry in Rebecca is always between Mrs. Danvers, Mrs. de Winter and the late Mrs. de Winter’s things. Kristin Scott Thomas is giving me life as the ghoulish, sulking, stalking Danny. I just wish the trailer gave away less of her long game, and more of her total obsession. 

What I’d love more than anything: a full line of Manderley merch. Give me all the silk pillowcases and the delicate lingerie and the crystal perfume bottles and the silver hairbrushes and the satin address books. I have no use for a monogrammed R, so I don’t need this in reality. I want it on screen. A constant barrage of dead lady’s effects that have the affect of making a woman want to scream. Rebecca, like the devil, is in the details. 

Netflix’s remake of Rebecca hits the streaming platform just in time for Halloween, on October 21st. 

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