Walter Mencken 10:06 a.m., Feb. 6
Review: The Girl
Hitchcock and bull.
Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas notwithstanding, it is seldom you'll catch me watching let alone writing about a made-for-TV movie. The term itself is an oxymoron and one I haven't had much use for in decades. CBS used to string together three episodes of The Jeffersons and call is The Late Show. Guilty as charged!
I don't care if it is letterboxed and plays uninterrupted with nudity and profanity. With the exception of Taxicab Confessions, almost every HBO production I've seen (which admittedly isn't many) is derivative junk tainted by limitations imposed by the small screen. Why bother with The Sopranos when there's Mean Streets and Casino to re-watch for the hundredth time? For me, the worst theatrical release is better than almost anything television has to offer. Cinema über alles!
When HBO starts shitting on a cinematic deity, rest assured that it won't take long for the stench to hit my nostrils. One of my favorite Hitchcock stories has The Master walking out on Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata after 30 minutes. It might have been the screwdrivers talking, but legend has it he turned to his companion and said, "Let's go see a real movie."
Hitch wouldn't have made it through more than 10 minutes of The Girl before heading for the exit door.
Let's start by stating the obvious: The Girl is fraught with so many technical blunders that it's hard to accept anything it has to say about Hitchcock's personal life as truth. At the risk of sounding like the "goofs" section on IMDB, here are but a few of the cable TV special's flagrant inaccuracies.
As 'Tippi' Hedren (Sienna Miller) sits nervously in the outer office waiting to consult with Mr. Hitchcock (Toby Jones) about playing the lead in The Birds, she eyes three framed 8x10 glossies on the wall. A photo of Grace Kelly on the set of To Catch a Thief hangs between two portraits of the real Ms. Hedren from the film her fictional counterpart is about to audition for!
After a particularly grueling afternoon of being worked over by the sadistic Cocky, 'Tippi' arrives home still clad in full Melanie Daniels regalia. A first time actress, even one under personal contract to Mr. Hitchcock, would never be allowed drive off the lot without stopping at wardrobe to return her costume. What would Edith Head have said?
Were it not for the unwarranted laughter it produced, the period recreation would be beneath contempt. There was no way this thing was shot in Hollywood. Nor does it have the look of Pinewood or Elstree Studios. Turns out The Girl wasn't shot in the northern hemisphere, let alone Hollywood. It was produced in South Africa which may account for the film's assertion that The Birds and Marnie were both shot on 1930's newsreel cameras.
They screen Al's dalies (in 1.33:1?!) on a projector similar to the one Hitler used to watch Triumph of the Will. Remember the wooden folding chairs your parents kept in the closet for when company came over? Wait until you see the seating arrangement in Mr. Hitchcock's personal screening room.
Marnie is a personal favorite, a film I've logged at least 25 viewings of, and every time Marnie first enters the scene with a Technicolor yellow bag tucked in tow, it's on an actual location, not a green (yellow?) screen mock-up of a train station as The Girl wrongfully illustrates.
Even more risible than the film's inattentiveness to detail is its lurid portrait of Hitchcock. It would be one thing to paint Hitch as a "dirty uncle" whose physical unattractiveness caused him to lord over beautiful woman who otherwise wouldn't give him the time of day. While it's certain that on many occasions Hitchcock did things for the betterment of the picture that could be considered underhanded, it's doubtful that sexually assaulting 'Tippi' Hedren in the back seat of a limo was one of them.
Nor does it ring true that Hitchcock insisted that so long as she was under contract, Hedren was to be on call to grant his every sexual favor. We're talking about a man so terrified of women that he took a vow of celibacy in 1940. It's been written that Hitch once received "road head" from Ingrid Bergman. Grace Kelly not only had a thing for older men, she had been known to give comfort to the maitre 'd at Chasen's in order to get a better table. It's almost certain that at one time she took care of her mentor.
I do not mean to imply that Hedren should have "put out" in order to keep working. According to the film, Hedren's first impression of the director was that of "a perfect English gentleman," even though he toasted her with a dirty limerick. He might have made a name for himself by filming voyeurs, but it remains questionable whether Hitch was the transom-peeping perv The Girl makes him out to be.
Hedren comes off as a cold prig both on and off screen. Without tales of Big Bad Hitch to tell, would she still be even remotely relevant today? When was the last time someone booked a double feature of The Harrad Experiment and The Birds II?
I wouldn't exactly call what Hedren does in The Birds or Marnie acting, but Hitch sure knew how to use his servant girl. We've all seen John Gavin's work in Psycho. Hitch could get a performance out of a sequoia. Why should Hedren be any different?
More like this:
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- Hitchcock star wins $1.5 million for San Diego accident — Dec. 17, 2013
- Christmas jeer — Dec. 24, 2012
- Timothy Spall, the man who should be king — Nov. 30, 2012
- A closer look at the trailer for Hitchcock — Oct. 11, 2012