Alfred Hitchcock’s unassailable Gothic classic is merely the first of his many biopsies on marriage and the secret poisoning within them. Filled with superb set pieces and supporting performances, it all boils down to Joan Fontaine’s nameless heroine, nervously thrust into both an aristocratic milieu and an uncommunicative union she has no business occupying. Reportedly, Hitchcock (with the help of costar Laurence Olivier) subtly abused Fontaine on the set of Rebecca, a ploy that not only made her performance realer than real, but made the entire film, inside and out, a working metaphor for a dysfunctional marriage.
Blow Up, Chappaquiddick, Watergate, JFK, sound engineering, and Philadelphia, all rolled into a crazy plot involving a political assassination that the hero (John Travolta, engagingly relaxed) may have accidentally recorded on audiotape. The background of a berserk City of Brotherly Love during the July Fourth fete is as central to the film, visually and ironically, as the national monuments used by Hitchcock in his works. All in all, a smashing, thoughtful, stirring piece of pulp, and probably the best movie for the holiday.