My Cousin Rachel is another one of those movies which exposes my abysmal ignorance of older pop culture. Daphne Du Maurier used to be medium big in the world of novels, straddling literature and popular fiction well enough that grown up people read her, but punks like me also snapped up each novel as it came out. So I ought to have at least a passing familiarity with her books, and be sitting through the movie adaptations knowing just what’s coming, and simply grading them on how well they get to a destination I already know.
Which is what John was doing, having seen a stage adaptation - which he preferred - a couple of years back. I was sitting there completely unequipped by comparison. Was Rachel going to make it? Were the police going to pounce? When was this thing even set? I still don’t know the answer to that last question. The costumes could be anything from the Regency to early Victorian, depending on the extent to which you want to believe that people in rural Cornwall just kept wearing clothes long past their sell by date. But thinking about it, it seems to me that even the latest time zone would still be before there was such a thing as police even to pounce. Not that they do.
Rachel Weisz makes a pretty good Rachel - at least to my mind - but she’s hampered by the fact that Phillip is both an arsehole and a character whose motivation is all over the place. There ought to be a tension in the movie between the possibility that Rachel is a manipulative demon and the possibility that she’s a misunderstood woman trying to make her way in a man’s world. But twenty minutes in Philip’s company is enough to make you side with Rachel either way. If she’s a harpy, great. Philip needs harpy-ing something wicked. Which makes it all the more bewildering that the other female character in the piece seems so taken with him. Clearly Louise doesn’t get out much. It sits oddly with her clearheadedness about absolutely everything else. Louise is sorted. You’d think that would make her smart enough to run a mile from Philip’s man-child. Still, I see that Holliday Granger is going to be playing Robin Ellacott in the upcoming BBC adapation of the Cormoran Strike books, and that fills me with not so much excitement as the calm reassurance that Robin’s got someone who can do the part properly.