Overview: This movie is about a relationship. The relationship between a iconic director and his new star. He has detailed scenes devised and specific motivations plotted to get the perfect shots he wants time after time. To achieve his goal he must manipulate his actress ruthlessly. And then he goes too far; trying to manipulate her in directions she does not want to go. After a tumultuous three years and two movies she never worked for him again but, he did not release her from her contract for two more years before their pained collaboration ended. Thus, is the relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and the girl, Tippi Hedren.
Expectations: This HBO FILM is one of those pieces that I preferred to ignore the publicity about as so not to ruin my viewing experience. Except for the press release and the trailer I ignored all interviews, teasers and Invitations to the Set clips the channel put out. After I watch the film then they will get my attention. I do that intentionally because if you watch all the extra background info beforehand all the major scenes and plotlines are discussed and shown before you even see the movie itself.
So, my expectations are not tainted by all of that and I am looking forward to the piece. I actually expect quite a bit from THE GIRL, which is adapted from the book “Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies” by Donald Spoto. First off, I want to understand the relationship. It is called THE GIRL causing us all to focus and obsess about Miss Hedren. What drives Hitchcock towards this obsession? What did he see in her? Did she egg him on to keep the part or revile him every step of the way? How far did he take his interest in her? Surely, this movie cannot muddle the uniqueness of the man and the situation for that is what the movie THE Girl is all about.
I also expect the pleasure of being on the movie set of the day. How were the two back-to-back films, The Birds and Marnie, filmed? How difficult was Hitchcock to work for? Based on the trailer I watched the tone of this film seems quite odd and creepy. I hope that tone is not just edited that way for the trailer. I hope that tone is even handed throughout the actual film for that would clearly be genius to match the same sort of feelings that Hitchcock’s own pictures generated. I look forward to HBO FILMS: THE GIRL and giving my reaction to it upon viewing.
Gut Reaction: Well, I am quite pleased with yet another HBO FILM. Director Julian Jarrold has indeed created the perfect tone for which to tell this odd Hollywood story. First he and Toby Jones give us an oddly disturbing Alfred Hitchcock. With the shadows and the glances and the distinctive vocal nuances of Mr. H. you are either awed or scared to be in his presence. It is quite easy to believe that one could feel so too.
Sienna Miller’s performance easily captured those feelings. She, as Tippi Hedren, was at first awed by the glamour of being taken in by Mr. H., and even was humored by his oddness and bawdy limericks. Her opinion of him quickly changed yet she continued to work for and with him. There were several subtle unsettling moments played out. The most unsettling segment was not subtle. It was the scenes depicting the five days and forty -some takes of the attic scene from The Birds. Now, a director often can push a performer into a certain mindset by, say telling her the story of the dead puppy to get her to cry but, Hitchcock took it to another level. He didn’t have Hedren act afraid in that scene she was legitimately afraid and it was captured on film. Was he sick and sadistic? Was he punishing her because she rebuked his advances? Or was he just going over the line to get the perfect shot? Exciting moments like this and almost every encounter the director has with his leading lady leaves you spellbound.
In Conclusion: Mr. H and Miss H. went their separate ways after 1964. He made four more movies before he died; she had trouble getting work afterwards as he said she would and her best works are the films she did for him. There were lasting aftereffects for both of them and there is also for this viewer. It clearly brings to the surface the thought that Alfred H., whose movies I love, was a pathetic, sad man. Who we saw publicly was different from the private man. Miss H.’s place in this story turns into one of harassment in the workplace; harassment that can partially, yet still shockingly seen on film. It makes me want to see The Birds, Marnie and THE GIRL again. I hope HBOWatchers seek it out as well so we can talk about it here. Check for more play dates or watch it on HBOGo.
Did you catch The Girl this weekend? Give us your own mini-review below in the comments.