REBECCA ★ ★
( 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