This week, it’s Rebecca, a 1938 Daphne du Maurier story that’s already been adapted into a blockbuster movie once, in 1940, by a little-known filmmaker called Alfred Hitchcock; and into a BBC miniseries in 1979 starring Joanna David; and, more recently, into an ITV miniseries, starring Emilia Fox, Joanna David’s daughter.
The latest attempt comes courtesy of Netflix, whose ‘originals’, which once rained down at a dizzying rate, have assumed a slower drip in the lockdown era. Featuring Lily James, Rebecca is one of its prize assets, and its release would seem to come at a perfect time for the streaming giant: a world desperately seeking escapism, and freshly scandalised by the amatory actions of its leading lady.
Unfortunately, for Lily James at least, her off-screen antics are far more engaging than what she offers up here. For those unaware of the original novel, or any subsequent adaptation, Rebecca is the story of a lowly maid (James) who falls in love with a widowed aristocrat, Maxim de Winter, while on duty in the South of France.
Freed from her servitude by marriage, she returns to his stately home (Manderley!) with her new husband, played by an improbably broad-shouldered Armie Hammer, only to find herself tormented by the intense psychodrama swirling around her predecessor’s death.