REBECCA ★ ★

Daily Express - - WEEKEND FILMS -

( Cert 12A, 122mins. In cin­e­mas now and on Net­flix from Wed­nes­day)

OVER the past decade, Bri­tish di­rec­tor Ben Wheat­ley has gone from the pre­ten­tious ( A Field In Eng­land) and the plot­less ( High­Rise) to the shame­less ( Tarantino rip- off Free Fire). Now he re­turns with the merely point­less – an in­stantly for­get­table adap­ta­tion of Daphne du Mau­rier’s 1938 novel. Wheat­ley has claimed that he wasn’t in­flu­enced by Al­fred Hitch­cock’s Os­car- win­ning 1940 ver­sion. He wasn’t kid­ding. Here, he has stripped out all the psy­cho­log­i­cal chills to turn in a cosy cos­tume ro­mance. Re­tain­ing the iconic open­ing line “Last night I dreamt I went to Man­der­ley again”, ”, this hand­somely cos­tumed snoozer feels like more like an af­ter­noon re­peat on ITV3 than the lat­est salvo from a trail- blaz­ing au­teur. Set in the mid1930s, this ac­ci­den­tally en­tally top­i­cal yarn sees Lily James’ young in­no­cent catch the eye of a posh celebrity ( Ar­mie Ham­mer) with a com­pli­cated per­sonal life. The cu­ri­ously ac­cented Maxim de Win­ter ( Ham­mer) is a fab­u­lously wealthy English aris­to­crat who re­fuses to talk about the death of his wife Rebecca a year ear­lier. Af­ter they fall for each other in Monte Carlo, James be­comes the new Mrs de Win­ter and is whisked off to his an­ces­tral pile in Corn­wall. Sadly, the house is haunted by the mem­ory of the dead wife and by its creepy house­keeper Mrs Dan­vers ( Kristin Scott Thomas) who keeps loom­ing into door­ways as if she was on cast­ers. There’s a crush­ing pre­dictabil­ity about the cast­ing. Scott Thomas can pull off frosty in her sleep and this is yet an­other win­some role for Cin­derella ac­tress James. And apart from a cou­ple of jar­ring folk- hor­ror riffs, Wheat­ley plays the mys­tery straight, down­play­ing the gothic sub­text of the novel and Hitch­cock’s clas­sic. His Rebecca tries and fails to coast on gor­geous pe­riod frocks, sun- drenched scenery and the far- from- fizzing chem­istry of his two leads.

TEN­SION: T Lily James and Ar­mie Ham­mer, above, and Kristin Scott Thomas, left

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