'Rebecca' - Movie Review

I saw this back around 1986 and really liked it - a bit over-dramatic, but very good. It's been over 30 years since I've seen it. I'm a big fan of Hitchcock so I thought it would be worth watching again, but I was somewhat surprised at my own reaction.

A young woman (Joan Fontaine) is working as a paid companion to an older woman (Florence Bates) on a trip to Monte Carlo. There they meet Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier): incredibly handsome, recently widowed, and very rich. An illness on the part of the older woman allows the younger one (who is never named) to spend a lot of time with Mr. de Winter - they fall in love and are shortly married. She is naive and weak-willed, he is abrupt and occasionally quite random - and everyone assures her that his previous wife, Rebecca, was absolutely gorgeous and he's devastated by the loss. After the marriage they go to Manderley, his large country house in Britain with its 20 or so servants.

I had two huge problems with the movie: first, the new Mrs. de Winter is unbelievably spineless and never stands up for herself (until a little over an hour into the movie, perhaps a couple months into the marriage ... I should add it's not her husband who's putting her down), and second, the amount of double-talk required to hide what Rebecca truly was was astonishing. This stems from my having seen the movie before: I knew Rebecca wasn't quite as wonderful as we're first told. But the vague terms used, the prevarications and misleading statements become blatantly and painfully obvious on second viewing. And suggest - very strongly - the movie should only be seen once.

I was also put off by the statement that the 23 year old Joan Fontaine was "plain," and the implication that she was unattractive: both are astonishingly ludicrous. If they'd wanted a plain actress, they should actually have got one instead of trying to convince us that someone beautiful, wasn't. The script wants us to know that the new Mrs. de Winter is very much less attractive than Rebecca - but that's simply not true of Joan Fontaine no matter what Rebecca looked like.

The movie is beautifully filmed and occasionally has some lovely Hitchcockian touches, but overall was more frustrating than rewarding on second viewing.