REBECCA – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

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Early in Netflix’s adaptation of Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier’s classic Gothic mystery, the protagonist (Lily James) balks at the idea that her new husband’s late wife still holds a place in his heart. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” she says.

Rebecca is a story filled with ghosts: of lost or imagined love, insecurities, even murder. But unfortunately, the ghosts in this tepid adaptation are the suspense, atmosphere, and intrigue of the original 1938 novel and director Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 version, which won an Oscar for Best Picture.

Any adaptation carries risks. Some, like Gus Van Sant’s 1998 shot-for-shot color take on Psycho, seem doomed on paper, let alone on screen. Others change the source material or previous versions just enough to bring out a fresh perspective or theme. Disney’s 2016 live-action version of The Jungle Book rewards viewers with lush visuals and makes Mowgli a more active character. Likewise, 2015’s Cinderella introduces Ella (James, Downton Abbey) and the prince before the ball, laying a foundation for their romance and showing a character’s courage through kindness. Continue reading…

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Valerie Kalfrin

Valerie Kalfrin is an award-winning crime journalist turned freelance film writer whose work appears at RogerEbert.com, In Their Own League, Script, The Hollywood Reporter, and other outlets. Also a screenwriter and script consultant, she’s passionate about challenging stereotypes about gender and disability. Let’s tell better stories and tell stories better.