For weeks I was excited about watching the new Netflix movie Rebecca, starring winsome Lily James and hunky Armie Hammer. With a preview showing the two hyper-attractive stars swanning around beautiful European vistas and sumptuously appointed drawing rooms, I was anticipating some of the sexy feels of Call Me By Your Name, because yes Armie Hammer was in both and also, if you squint, Lily James has Timothée Chalamet's figure.
But then days before the flick premiered, a torrent of hot air from critics flattened my enthusiasm as wholly as the mistral blows through the French Riviera setting where the film opens. Vulture said it's a "hollow, turgid retread" of its source material, a bestselling 1935 novel by Daphne du Maurier (which was already adapted into an Academy Award-winning film, 1the 1940 classic directed by Alfred Hitchcock). Even meh reviews found something to carp about: writing in the New York Times, A.O. Scott said this telling lacks the novel's "subtextual kink."
Well, all of you hyperventilating haters can just catch your breath. I am a 21st-century binge-watching woman who has never read Rebecca the novel, seen Rebecca the Hitchcock film, heard Orson Welles's radio play or experienced any of the apparently scores of treatments of this story. And I enjoyed the film as a pleasant and mildly suspenseful two hours in the middle of a pandemic. (Pandemic entertainment grade inflation is real, and who am I to poo-poo the grading curve?)
At the beginning of the film, our wan little heroine, played by James, is catering to the needs of her snobbish American boss. James's character is so wan she is never given a name, but we're wholly on her side, as she tries to navigate the confusing rituals of the upscale hotel where they're staying. After her snobbish boss tries to curry favor with an indifferent fellow guest, our hero Max de Winter (Hammer), the boss becomes bedridden with an unspecified plot point. Which is convenient for our girl James, as then she's free to accept invitations from Max to go on concurrent day trips. (I am going to refer to the characters as James and Max henceforth, in the interest of keeping the wish fulfillment of the same-sex coupling heat of Call Me By Your Name alive.)