Re:View – ‘The Girl’

The Arts

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Poor Toby Jones. First he gets to star in the other version of Truman Capote’s story in ‘Infamous’, and now he gets the other Hitchcock biography. But where Sasha Gervasi’s ‘Hitchcock’ retold the making of ‘Psycho’ with elegance and élan, journeyman director Julian Jarrold’s ‘The Girl’ is a one-note hatchet job that works hard to alienate its audience. Although based on the book ‘Spellbound by Beauty’ by the respected cinema writer Donald Spoto, it has such a creepy, grubby feel that you want to stop watching.

Sienna Miller plays Tippi Hedren and Imelda Staunton is Alma Reville, while Jones essays a voice-perfect Hitch, who only lacks the director’s bulk to be a true match. All turn in superb performances – especially Miller – but they’re given little to work with. Gwyneth Hughes fails to provide much of a script beyond what everyone knows; that Hitchcock took an unknown and turned her into an actress for ‘The Birds’ and ‘Marnie’, deliberately unsettling her with filthy jokes and repeated takes that forced something less assured and smug from the former model.

Here, however, ‘The Girl’ goes further, having Hitchcock molest Hedren in a car and deliberately set out to destroy his creation by repeatedly making her suffer on and off set. The film ends without conclusion, beyond a suggestion that Hitch needed his women to be emotionally frozen, and entirely lacks the grace of the current Hopkins version. Instead, Hitchock comes over as a boorish, nasty-minded, vindictive sex-pest with no redeeming features, who bullied a noble, empowered woman fighting back against a cruel monster. But it feels lazy and inept to present Hedren like this, especially when there are no new revelations here, just blunter versions of the old ones.

I have no trouble with the interpretation – after all, the now 82 year-old Tippi Hedren approved it – but the stories seem to have become embellished over the years. Why didn’t she work with other directors? Why did she never achieve the same heights of performance? I have a faint connection to her, as Hedren starred in a film based on a story of mine, and although I didn’t meet her then I met her funny and charming daughter Melanie Griffiths, so I was keen to see this. I really wish I hadn’t, not because it felled an idol but because it does so little credit to anyone.

The BBC, who made the film with HBO, recently embarked on a series of TV movie exposes of beloved comics, from Hancock to Howerd, Kenneth Williams and Steptoe and son, showing the backstage darkness away from the camera lights. But when I spoke to Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, they professed themselves unhappy with the BBC’s portrayal of Wilfred Bramble and Harry Corbett, suggesting that they were always at each other’s throats. Quite the reverse, they said, the pair were perfect professionals and good friends, with only a little friction occurring over their later touring contract. Having exhausted the sub-genre (I notice they didn’t go after ITV star Benny Hill, who was a legendary womaniser) they appear to have chosen backstage movies as a more exportable version of the warts-and-all expose. Judging from this outing there won’t be any more.

9 comments on “Re:View – ‘The Girl’”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    Okay… It’s a new year. Admin is planning to write a suspense series, but the question is this: Is Admin testing a plot out on us a la Gaslight? Am I the only one who saw a new post on Spanish shopping? Had three pictures and the middle photo was an overheard shot of prepared pigs and fish set out on a counter. Anybody see that one and the other two, too? Sleeping Beauty and a wooden prince and then one of an elder woman with binware?
    Is this Bryant and May and the Vanishing Blog Post? Anybody? Hello, hello…

  2. Helen Martin says:

    Ar you sure you weren’t celebrating the New Year a little too enthusiastically, Dan? Perhaps, though, Admin has second thoughts occasionally and dumped it for something else?

  3. Bob Low says:

    I saw the vanished posts as well, Dan, but I’ve been having some computer problems recently, and assumed the problem was at my end of things.

    ”The Girl” was a bit of a disappointment, although it was extremely well made, and brilliantly acted by all concerned. I’ve often wondered how much of what Hedren claimed about Hitchcock was accurate, and whether it was, in fact Hitchcock who was solely responsible for wrecking her career. The film portrayed Hedren as poised on the edge of great things, and acclaimed ”Marnie” as ”Hitchcock’s last masterpiece”, without pointing out that the film was not received well at all on it’s release. Although it made a profit, it did not match up to the critical and commercial success of ”The Birds”.Even if she had been released from her contract, I can’t help wondering just how much in demand she would have been. Hitchcock seems to have been a complicated and occasionally difficult man, but people seem to be prepared automatically to believe the worst of him, because he made some scarey films.

    Galton and Simpson always come across in interviews as a pair of perfect gentlemen, unwilling to say a bad thing about any of the talented, but troubled people they worked with-even Hancock, who famously fired them.

  4. admin says:

    Ah – yes. I docked it because the pics were of insufficiently good quality, and I’m trying to raise the bar a bit this year EVEN THOUGH MY WEB DESIGNER HAS VANISHED OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH. If he’s listening. Ahem.

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    Whew. With my new glasses, I felt sure I’d actually seen that post and with three colour phoros, too. Glasses great, eyes reasonably sharp, but post gone in the twinkling of an eye. It reminded me seriously of a vanishing pub a few books ago.

  6. glasgow1975 says:

    To be fair it was just about the only thing on over Christmas that wasn’t a repeat, so it got some points for that, but I agree it was kind of blunt & tasteless, if he was such a sleazy letch would HSH Princess Grace have even toyed with the idea working with him ever again? Surely she’d have been glad to get away, not desperate to work again.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    Could you ever describe Her Serenity as being “desperate to work”? I don’t think she was ever lacking for offers.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    Or would she just be Her Highness? Serenity sounds more like a Doge of Venice or something along that line. We don’t say “His Royalty” after all. I just thought the word was so appropriate for the person in question.

  9. glasgow1975 says:

    Her Serene Highness would be the correct title, and by all accounts she did find her marriage hard and was desperate to get back to movies as an escape but was overruled by HSH Prince Rainier . . .

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