The Girl Reviews
Directors and artisans behind the scenes of the movies that make you smile are often able to navigate their lives in peace and even obscurity. People like Terrance Malick, the late Stanley Kubrick, and even Steven Spielberg lead intensely private lives, despite being easily recognizable and having achieved great commercial successes, staying out of the media and the spotlight except for brief moments to talk about their films, or, more often, the films of people they themselves admire. If fame was forced upon me, and I got to choose the type, this is the type of famous I would choose to be. Private, but present. Unfortunately, it's not always up to people in the entertainment industry how famous they get to be. Or how private.
Alfred Hitchcock's name will forever be synonymous with the word suspense to describe a type of film. His name will go down as one of the most revered, critically and commercially successful and respected filmmaking talents of all time. His films will endure, and as long as they do, there will be people who will write books, concoct theories, assemble documentaries and study his films in between the frames with a fine tooth comb in an effort to get to the bottom, or have a better understanding of the man's genius. As they do they will uncover his good side: His uncanny ability to visualize a sequence in his head and then match that to what will occur on screen. His understanding of the role an audience plays in how effective a movie will be. His dark sense of humour and dirty anecdotes. The way he is able to pull great performances out of his acting talent by making them feel at ease, or keeping them in a state of tired desperation, depending upon what the day's scenes will call for. And his dark side: The dichotomy of an apparent misogyny coupled with an almost idolizing worship of his barbie doll leading women. The reports of sexual harassment and cruelty toward some of these women, even with his wife of decades standing just off to the side of his director's chair. The dirty jokes and anecdotes that sometimes go too far, or are aimed at someone in particular with the intent to do harm. The tactics that have brought some of his actors and actresses close to breakdown or have incurred physical pain to goad an appropriate performance out of them. Yes, sometimes his good traits would turn into his bad ones at the tip of a hat. Sometimes he would get bored. Sometimes he would get mean.
But what the hell do I know? I'm going on the things I've read by people that could never hope to be as celebrated or as respected as the man they're writing about. People who probably know, as all journalists do, that a saucy story is many times more interesting than a plain one. People who may be jealous or bitter of this man's success and therefore feel a self righteous need to smear his name all over the pavement and bring him back down to earth with the rest of us working class folk, toiling in the muck for a day's wages. Or maybe they heard it from someone who heard it from someone who heard it from someone who knew someone who was on set that day. That's not called an inside source folks, that's a game called telephone. And the last time I played it, the words that came out of the first person's mouth, weren't the ones to come out of the last.
So don't believe everything you read. Take a scandal, if you must take it at all, with a grain of salt and take HBO's new TV movie The Girl, about the working relationship of Alfred Hitchcock and Tippie Hedron, as entertainment, rather than a fact in the book of life. I don't know what happened between these two on the sets of The Birds and Marnie, or whether it was as harrowing and as creepy as this well made film makes it out to be. And neither do you. What I do know is that Toby Jones is brilliant and jaw dropping as Hitch, making up in vocal delivery and body language what he lacks in appearance and height. And Sienna Miller is wonderful as Tippie, playing fraught and sexy with an equal measure of excellence. And it's just a good story. And that's all it needs to be.
After molding Hedren into a movie star, Hitchcock, as seen through the shallow, flat prism of The Girl, is seen a beast. Whether through the telling of off-color limericks to Hedren, or falsely presenting scenes of The Birds. There's an ugly re-telling of a famous attack scene where Hitchcock forced Hedren to endure five days of being bombarded by live birds, after being assured that only mechanical birds and post production special effects would be used to for the shooting. There's certainly evidence that occurred, with the exception of the behind the scenes drama. The question that The Girl fails to really respond to, is why Hedren put up with it the first place. Why she continued work with a man who seemingly punished her for not accepting his sexual passes. Why she stayed afloat, with a brave, victim-like expression on her face when she felt so unhappy and marginalized. Whatever speculation of the Hitchcock\Hedren relationship will forever remain a mystery, since only one side can truly ever be explored, but The Girl seems to disingenuously present Hitch as such a loathsome cad, that it reeks of caricature, and is completely bereft of humanity on either side. Hedren is presented rather dully, and Miller's nonchalant portrayal lacks clear definition or insight. One wonders what counterpoints past Hitchcock blondes Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, Janet Leigh or Kim Novack might provide on the subject.
The Girl even fails on the seemingly easy-get on the fun it should have in recreating some of the classic moments of The Birds and Marnie, foregoing the simple revelry of old school Hollywood glee in favor of unsightly and broadly drawn melodrama. F