Sat 6 Sep 2014
2012 was a good year for us, fans of Alfred Hitchcock. Two movies were released centered around the character of the genial and obsessive master of suspense. I liked ‘Hitchcock’ starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren which I saw, a while ago, close to its release date. I had somehow lesser expectations from ‘The Girl’ which bears the anti-promotional label of ‘TV Film’ – luckily I can say that despite the very different approach and the controversial approach in describing the character and personal life of the great director, it also is a very good film, and there are many more good reasons to put it near the most respected and starred companion, besides the year of the release.
‘Based on a true story’ can also be sometimes a deterrent but it is not here either. The reason is that the ‘true story’ is about the relationship between director Hitchcock and Tippie Hedren, the feminine star of two of his movies – the famous ‘The Birds’ and the lesser known ‘Marnie’ that followed. Screen text at the start of the movie makes a case for the authenticity of what follows and to some extent prepares us for a version of the Hitchcock character which was rumored during his life, documented in memoirs and testimonies after his death, but never caught as such on screen until now. A Hitchcock who was not only obsessive in his film making, but also in the relations with the actresses he worked with, a film director of unequaled talent but also an aging man who tried to overcome the inevitable by trying to use the fascination he won with his art and personality in order to bring to bed the much younger stars he worked with, and when one of them like Tippie Hedren rejected him. he was sliding into what we bluntly call today harassment.
The approach taken by the script and by director Julian Jarold was rejected by many of the admirers of Hitchcock. I do not have an opinion one way or another, but I will observe that some of the great admired artists of our time had their own problems that reflected in their personalities and relations with the teams or women in their lives – to mention Woody Allen, Polansky or Depardieu as a few other illustrious examples. The personal lives after all make good material for biographical movies (like the one we are discussing here) but hardly can shade their cinematographic work. I actually believe that Jarold tried to stick to facts, without necessarily making a moral judgment. According to his own criteria the viewer can consider the ‘Hitch’ in this film as being a harassing maniac, or an aging man falling to an autumnal crisis in his life. What cannot be denied is that one way or another ‘The Birds’ remains like a peak movie in the creation of Hitchcock and history of cinema.
Some fine actors work make this movie even more interesting. Toby Jones creates a very credible Hitchcock with the silhouette and voice of the character we know and love, and enough ambiguity to serve the purposes and ideas of the director. Imelda Staunton almost made me forget Helen Mirren with her rendition of Imelda Hitchcock. Last and best, Sienna Miller has all the beauty and inner strength that makes us believe that there was such a girl who stood up to the advances of the great Alfred Hitchcock.