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Evan C

My Cousin Rachel (2017)

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Evan C   

Okay. Why am I just finding out about this now? Du Maurier's novel is one of my three favorite books, so naturally I'm very excited/nervous to see what is done with this. Weisz is a great choice for Rachel, but nothing in Michell's filmography fills me with confidence that he's the right director, but at the same time, none of his previous films suggest he would be a bad choice.

International trailer here. The American one has some spoilers, and is basically a two minute summary of the book, minus the ending, but it's worth watching if you want to see how vastly different a tone it takes. Part of the novel's brilliance is the way it strikes a balance between the genre and tone of the two trailers.

 

Edited by Evan C

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Anodos   

Big fan of Du Maurier. I bought a boxset of most of her novels in my teens and found her something of a kindred spirit. My Mum is Cornish and grew up only a few miles from where Du Maurier lived, so I know the setting of many of her books very well. (I once accidentally trespassed through the grounds of Menabilly, the house she turned into Manderley for Rebecca...)

You're right, Weisz is a good choice - she's fearless enough for melodrama, but intelligent enough for the subtlety and psychological complexity in this story. Michell is maybe not an inspiring choice, but he has made interesting and tricky films alongside Notting Hill

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I enjoyed the film for what it was, especially in the midst of a sea of superhero carnage. So I'm interested in what set Evan off and/or what I missed. 

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Evan C   

QUASI-SPOILERS

 

I went into it in detail (sans spoilers) at Letterboxd, but the short answer is I felt it rushed through too many crucial plot points (Philip's uncritical adoration of Ambrose, Louise's unrequited love for Philip, and most importantly allowing Rachel to be a sympathetic figure), which in turn never allowed the atmosphere of uncertainty to ripen the way it needed to. Philip is admittedly an impetuous, rash character, but I felt the film was using that as a crutch not to develop him or explain the guilt and turmoil that plagues him after Ambrose's death, which directly influences his hatred then infatuation with Rachel. More problematically, even with the ante-penultimate scene of going through Rachel's belongings, the film doesn't really entertain the possibility that Rachel is innocent (the perpetual back and forth questioning of her guilt/innocence is one of my favorite aspects of the book), and therefore Philip just comes across as an impetuous fool being taken in by an eeeevil woman, which I think whitewashes his many faults (cavalier sexism, inflated self confidence, and hot-headedness).

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Anodos   
On 6/8/2017 at 2:31 AM, Evan C said:

There will be worse movies this year; there have already been worse movies, but there will be none that I hate more than My Cousin Rachel.

I expounded my thoughts into a review.

In regards to the opening line of the novel, you haven't mentioned a key point - that it's also the closing line. Du Maurier had a wonderful knack for arresting beginnings and haunting endings, but in My Cousin Rachel its particular power is that what opens as an atmospheric plunge into the past returns at last with all the weight of thunderous self-accusation and guilt.

Really disappointed by your review - I think what we may both have missed in anticipation is that Roger Michell was not only directing but also writing the adaptation. According to IMDB it's his first writing credit. Why? Why would you suddenly think you're capable of skilfully adapting an intricate, subtle work when you're a complete novice? His more interesting films have all been in collaboration with playwrights or novelists like Hanif Kureishi and Joe Penhall. And you know what? I think it's actually harder to go from directing to writing than vice versa. There are so many British playwrights/screenwriters who could have done a first-rate job of this, and it's baffling to me that he didn't turn to one of them.

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Evan C   
1 hour ago, Anodos said:

In regards to the opening line of the novel, you haven't mentioned a key point - that it's also the closing line. Du Maurier had a wonderful knack for arresting beginnings and haunting endings, but in My Cousin Rachel its particular power is that what opens as an atmospheric plunge into the past returns at last with all the weight of thunderous self-accusation and guilt.

Really disappointed by your review - I think what we may both have missed in anticipation is that Roger Michell was not only directing but also writing the adaptation. According to IMDB it's his first writing credit. Why? Why would you suddenly think you're capable of skilfully adapting an intricate, subtle work when you're a complete novice? His more interesting films have all been in collaboration with playwrights or novelists like Hanif Kureishi and Joe Penhall. And you know what? I think it's actually harder to go from directing to writing than vice versa. There are so many British playwrights/screenwriters who could have done a first-rate job of this, and it's baffling to me that he didn't turn to one of them.

Well, I was trying to avoid spoiling the ending of the novel or the movie in the review, but yes, the way du Maurier ties that line into the conclusion is brilliant.

You might be less disappointed than I was, but I think you made a good point about writing vs. directing.

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On 6/12/2017 at 7:59 PM, Evan C said:

QUASI-SPOILERS

More problematically, even with the ante-penultimate scene of going through Rachel's belongings, the film doesn't really entertain the possibility that Rachel is innocent (the perpetual back and forth questioning of her guilt/innocence is one of my favorite aspects of the book), and therefore Philip just comes across as an impetuous fool being taken in by an eeeevil woman, which I think whitewashes his many faults (cavalier sexism, inflated self confidence, and hot-headedness).

I kinda thought the film more than entertained that possibility...that it leaned in that direction. It's certainly true that the audience I saw it with, which wasn't exactly sophisticated, was mostly assuming she was guilty, but I think that had more to do with modern movie expectations than in what the movie was actually doing. Still, I don't feel enough to champion the film...but I enjoyed it.I thought it was interesting how much was made of Rachel's large "appetites" and how even today, that quality stigmatizes women more than men. 

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Evan C   
6 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I kinda thought the film more than entertained that possibility...that it leaned in that direction. It's certainly true that the audience I saw it with, which wasn't exactly sophisticated, was mostly assuming she was guilty, but I think that had more to do with modern movie expectations than in what the movie was actually doing. Still, I don't feel enough to champion the film...but I enjoyed it.I thought it was interesting how much was made of Rachel's large "appetites" and how even today, that quality stigmatizes women more than men. 

Well, it's certainly possible I missed something, and maybe I was influenced by the audience I saw it with, who strongly presumed Rachel was guilty. Or maybe I was too ticked off by rushing through plot points I considered crucial, but whatever the reason, I did not see that in the film.

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