FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES (2017)
Director: Roger Michell
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Grainger, Pierfrancesco Favino
“Did she? Didn’t she? Who was to blame?”
God knows, I was almost asleep. Oh, and Michell is to blame.
Adapted from Daphne du Maurier’s 1951 novel of the same name, My Cousin Rachel is what is known in the world of movie reviewers as a slog.
Rachel Weisz tries her best to save this turgid toilet blocker, but unfortunately, her efforts came up short.
Raised by his cousin Ambrose (Deano Bugatti), Philip (Claflin) is devastated to learn of his father-figure’s death. Ambrose had been residing in Florence, Italy with his wife, Rachel (Weisz) – much to the chagrin of Philip – and had been sending regular correspondence back home until he became a husband. With his ire towards Rachel already peaked, Philip is handed mail that was kept from him and discovers hidden messages in Ambrose’s letters telling of his torment at the hands of his wife. Well, Philip is now livid and on the warpath believing Ambrose death was down to Rachel, just you wait until he gets his hands on this vile Rachel woman.
Eventually, Rachel travels to Cornwall, England to visit Ambrose’s estate. This is it, thinks Philip, time for sweet revenge. When he finally meets Rachel, Philip becomes a puppy dog, infatuated with the older lady in his company and immediately sets out to court her – from offering her his mother’s prized jewellery to his entire estate, all against the wishes of his godfather Kendall (Glen). With his 25th birthday looming, Philip will gain full control of the estate and has restraining plans of his own for Rachel, who seemingly has her own agenda and reasons for being at the estate.
If you want a better adaptation of the novel, stick with the 1952 adaptation with Richard Burton and Olivia de Havilland.
I’ll start by stating the obvious from the introduction, My Cousin Rachel is bloody boring. It really is. Nothing to do with the time period (see: Lady Macbeth for how to pull it off), the lack of action (or anything riveting, in general), the brooding nature of the narrative or the cumbersome runtime – it’s just genuinely boring. Nothing happens to charge the story along, it’s incredibly flat, the twists are painful and by ignoring any potential subtexts, the movie is pretty much redundant. Michell had the chance to create a story of empowering femininity fused with paranoia, lust and power – it was all there, the execution, however, sadly wasn’t.
Rachel Weisz is strong as…Rachel, her silent power is evident in her appearance and her gentle facial acting says more than the script attempts to chain her down with. Her restrained, yet sensual, behaviour around Philip is handled well and her character is the one saving grace here. Sam Claflin’s performance is nowhere near compelling enough to have us care about his apparently conflicted character – his quick switcheroo upon seeing Rachel was just bad. With all the layers Philip required, he only hit the mark on one – being unlikable. Iain Glen must wish he was still Captain Friendzone in Game of Thrones after this.
Throughout My Cousin Rachel is a tedious game of “who’s the villain?” as we’re led to believe at various times that either Rachel or Philip could be the person with the mischievous intentions. It happens so many times that it loses any tension that was trying to be created. Following this, the ending is utterly ridiculous – after the back-and-forth nature, I couldn’t care less who was trying to do what and when the end comes, it literally gives you the opportunity to just shrug your shoulders at the screen.
Why did Philip go outside of his own house, whisper up into Rachel’s room and then proceed to climb in through the window? Knock on the door and walk in, you freak.
The movie at least looks good, and I find many period movies do, it’s hard to make elegant times looks bad. With a portion of the movie being set at Christmas allowed for some nice looking decorations and an excuse for extra candles. The exterior shots are sweeping and decent-looking, the beautiful English coastline getting some nice cinematic exposure once more. The mansion looks perfect for the period, the costumes look great and under her black veil, Rachel is allowed an air of gentle menace. Great photography does not make a great movie, unfortunately.
There’s not really anything else to say about My Cousin Rachel. The acting – Weisz aside – is below-standard, the writing is terrible, the twists lamentable and the lack of anything remotely entertaining is unforgivable. There’s a great story stewing away within the pages, but alas, it’s anything but great here.
Please Rachel, poison me too.
September 30th 2017