|Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren and Tobey Jones as Alfred Hitchcock in The Girl|
He was unable to cast Kelly and Grant, both unwilling to come out of retirement, in his next project The Birds, which was based on a story by Daphne du Maurier. He spotted Tippi Hedren in a television commercial and she reminded him of Kelly. Hitchcock quickly signed her to an exclusive personal contract and then began an intensive grooming process, and, as Hedren herself has confessed to many since, proceeded to fall in love with his leading lady. Hitch had most likely been in love with his female stars before, but they were more seasoned in show business than Hedren, who was just starting out in films. Hitch could mold Hedren, and, he must have hoped, control her. The Girl does depict the grooming process, and how Hitch taught Hedren how to walk and stand and emote in his meticulously planned-out shots. But the focus of the film is clearly to show the director behaving like a dirty old man. Without much background to his motivations or characterization it becomes not much more than a peep show.
|Hitch and Hedren in a publicity shot for The Birds|
The Girl could have worked a feminist angle, but instead chose to present Sienna Miller as an attractive stand-in for Hedren, but ultimately just as blank, if pretty, a slate. Tobey Jones does a masterful vocal impression of the inimitable Hitchcock, but his motivations, creative and sexual, are only hinted at. Imelda Staunton is wasted as his (supposedly) long-suffering wife Alma Reville, who any Hitchcock buff knows was his right hand on most of his films. They were a tight unit.
|Hitch directs Hedren and Sean Connery in Marnie|
Marnie, which The Girl's makers claim as his last great masterpiece is far from that (Actually, that would be Frenzy). Marnie is a mess of psychological mumbo-jumbo. Like all Hitchcock films it is watchable, but its attempts to be sexually daring, with Hedren cast as a frigid compulsive thief, and Connery as the man to give her what she needs, just come off as cold and sad and distant. It's an unsuccessful update of his 1945 pscyhological thriller Spellbound. Is Marnie the celluloid expression of Hitch's frustration with not finally being able to meld his leading lady on film with his own life? Maybe. But The Girl is just able to gloss over the surface of such questions. Ultimately it is just a blip. The Birds will always impress.
Note: if you haven't seen the Hitchcock films mentioned in this post, run, don't walk, to check out the master and draw your own conclusions.
Spellbound - Psychoanalyst Ingrid Bergman tries to help patient Gregory Peck — while falling in love with him. Is he a crazed murder or a wronged man?
"Revenge," Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Carl's (Ralph Meeker) wife Elsa (Vera Miles) has suffered a nervous breakdown and must stay at home. One day after Carl returns she tells him that a man has broken into their house and assaulted her. Carl decides to take the law into his own hands. He takes her out in the car and they drive around, hoping to identify her assailant, with tragic consequences.
The Wrong Man - Based on a true story, Henry Fonda plays a man wrongly accused of a crime. Whether he is found ultimately innocent or not becomes less important to him as he watches the effect the ordeal is having upon his wife, played by Vera Miles, who is slowly unraveling from the pressure.
Vertigo - James Stewart plays a former police detective who suffers from vertigo who is hired to trail a rich man's wife. It doesn't take long for Stewart to fall for his client's wife, played by Kim Novak, and to also fear for her safety. Hitchcock's masterpiece of obsession and identity has San Francisco and its nearby landmarks as not just a location but another character in the film.
Psycho - Janet Leigh is in a bind and on the run, but her troubles are just starting when she chooses to stay at the Bates Motel, run by a quiet young man (Anthony Perkins) and his domineering mother.
The Birds - Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) impulsively follows a man she has just met, Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), to his weekend home. What starts as simple flirtation soon takes on a dangerous note as they witness escalating attacks on Mitch's neighbors by larger and larger groups of birds. Is Melanie somehow the catalyst for these deadly attacks?
Marnie - Tippi Hedren plays Marnie, a thief who has a series of psychological hang-ups, which include the color red, thunder, and any man touching her. Sean Connery wants to marry her and cure all her demons.
Frenzy - A serial killer, a rapist-strangler, is on the loose in London. In a twist, Hitchcock reveals the identity of the killer (Barry Foster) early on in the film. The audience must helplessly watch and wonder if the hero, Richard Blaney, played by Jon Finch, will be blamed for the crime and the real villain go scot-free.