Review: The Girl (2012)

The Girl (2012)

Directed by: Julian Jarrold | 91 minutes | biography, drama | Actors: Sienna Miller, Toby Jones, Imelda Staunton, Conrad Kemp, Penelope Wilton, Angelina Ingpen, Candice D’Arcy, Carl Beukes, Kate Tilley, Aubrey Shelton, Leon Clingman, Patrick Lyster, Jay-Jay Botha, Adrian Galley, Louis Joubert , Sean Cameron Michael, Carel Nel

‘Don’t worry, it’s only a movie’. These now legendary words encouraged Alfred Hitchcock to an unnamed actor, who was almost through during the filming. The small sentence also applies to the British television film ‘The Girl’ from 2012, which focuses on the strained relationship between Hitch and actress Tippi Hedren. The film caused quite a stir, because it paints a fairly negative image of the legendary director. He is said to have treated the relatively unknown Hedren, the blond fashion model who starred in his films ‘The Birds’ (1963) and ‘Marnie’ (1964), in such an obsessive and intrusive way that it ultimately cost her her career. The film is based on Hedren’s revelations in Donald Spoto’s 1983 biographical books ‘The Dark Side of Genius’ and especially ‘Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies’ from 2009. Hitchcock would have wanted to mold Hedren into ‘the perfect woman’. and had plans to run off with her. When she rejected his advances, he vented his frustrations by treating Hedren to a series of traumatic events while filming ‘The Birds’. The negative way in which the much-loved filmmaker is portrayed in ‘The Girl’ caused quite a bit of controversy. Other famous leading ladies such as Kim Novak and Eve Marie Saint and other people who have experienced the director up close, indicated that they had had very different experiences with Hitchcock and resolutely rejected the film.

The film begins in 1961, when Alfred Hitchcock (Toby Jones) and his wife and confidant Alma (Imelda Staunton) first see Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller) in a commercial for a soft drink brand. The director sees in her the new Grace Kelly – his previous muse, who had to leave Hollywood due to her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco – and casts her for the lead role in his new film ‘The Birds’. Unlike the actresses he worked with before, Tippi is a blank slate. Hitch has a clear idea of ​​what she should look like and what to wear, and young Hedren goes through all that meddling resignedly. Before long, the director becomes obsessed with the slender blonde and makes no secret of his admiration for her. When he makes sexual advances, she rejects him. To ‘punish’ her for that, he makes the recordings of ‘The Birds’ a real hell. At first it’s just bullying (Hitch was known for his bawdy limericks that embarrassed the prudish Hedren), but soon he starts a psychological war against his lead actress. For example, mechanical birds are suddenly replaced by real birds that terrify Hedren, and the scene has to be re-shot several times until he is satisfied with the authentic response of his lead actress. The actress will also remember the recordings in a telephone booth for a long time. As if she wasn’t traumatized enough, the next film, ‘Marnie’, Hedren is again subjected to violent scenes (including a rape) and the partnership completely wrings her mentally and emotionally. Hitch, in turn, is so frustrated with what he sees as Hedren’s cold and aloof demeanor that his demands become increasingly ridiculous: If she wants her career to last longer than two films, she must make herself sexually available to him. If not, he will make sure that she doesn’t get a job anywhere else….

Hitchcock as a sexually frustrated tyrant, it takes some getting used to for many. ‘The Girl’ was directed by Julian Jarrold – known for ‘Becoming Jane’ (2007) and the film version of ‘Brideshead Revisited’ (2008) – and penned by Gwyneth Hughes. Spoto provided her with the necessary advice when writing the screenplay. Of course, the most succulent details from his book have survived; there is hardly time set aside for a positive note. Because despite everything, Hedren has admitted that there were also positive sides to her (working) relationship with Hitchcock. Moreover, we hear, or in this case we see, only one side of the story. How far Hitchcock’s obsession with Hedren actually went, we’ll never know. That is why we approach this film as a fictional story based on reality, which, despite its critical view, also wants to pay tribute to the illustrious filmmaker. This can be seen in the many nods to the old master in, among other things, art direction (inspired by Saul Bass!), use of music (copied from Bernard Hermann!) and the camera work. From a content and stylistic point of view it is all a bit meager in ‘The Girl’; Hitch’s obsession is barely unraveled, the black humor that typifies his work is barely present and the suspense is also hard to find. Only in a single scene, such as the one where a drunken Hitch reveals to his assistant director Jim Brown (Carl Beukes) that he is impotent, never had a woman other than Alma, and desperately wanted to look more attractive, does the film seem a little more deep. want to go in. Toby Jones doesn’t really resemble Hitchcock in appearance, but still convinces thanks to his perfect voice control; Miller as Hedren gets better as her character starts to feel more rushed. It’s a shame that the roles of Staunton as the astute observer Alma Reville (a fascinating woman who deserves a film of her own anyway!) and Penelope Wilton as Hitchcock’s loyal collaborator Peggy Robertson are so limited, because they bring some life to the brewery.

‘The Girl’ is worthwhile for fans of Hitchcock, if only because of the many nods to the work of the master. The film tries to show us a different, darker side of Hitchcock, but because it all remains rather on the surface, you sometimes get the feeling that a reputation is unnecessarily put on the chopping block. Not for nothing have many actors stood up to defend Hitchcock; perhaps Hitchcock’s earlier muses such as Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, and Kim Novak were more confident and self-assured than Hedren, making them stand their ground against the director. Alma literally says in the film: ‘What makes her so special?’, and that’s exactly what you think as a viewer.

For a more complete picture of who Hitchcock was, “Hitchcock” (2012) by Sascha Gervasi, starring Anthony Hopkins in the lead role and Helen Mirren in the role of Alma Reville, is at the very least a complement to “The Girl.” If only because Alma’s role in that movie is more prominent, as it was in real life. Icy blondes abounded, but there was only one Alma; Hitch was nowhere without his support. ‘The Girl’ looks nice, but gives too limited a picture of reality.

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