Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"The Girl" 2012: Hitch is Back in the Spotlight

With the release of "Hitchcock" on the big screen recently and the HBO/BBC film, "The Girl" that also came out just a few months ago, then with "Vertigo" bumping "Citizen Kane" off of the AFI top spot after so many years of reigning supreme, It really does feel like 2012 was the year of Hitchcock and I couldn't be happier.

I got to see "Hitchcock" over the weekend and it was everything that I expected and more with Hopkins acting his overly stuffed, big boy pants off along with the rest of the cast. It really was great fun to take a peek behind the scenes during the making of "Psycho". With that said, I won't be reviewing it because, like every great film, it's been analyzed, reviewed to death! What I do want to discuss today is the HBO film, "The Girl".

I watched "The Girl" after seeing "Hitchcock" and I'm really not sure if that was a good or bad thing but what's done is done.

The wonderful stage and screen actor, Toby Jones plays Hitch in the film. Although I'm a huge fan of Jones, I have to say I was a bit skeptical when I saw that he would be playing Hitch. He's short with a slight build and while he's British his voice is effeminate. Of course my fears were quickly set aside when I remembered how great he was as Truman Capote in "Infamous" 2006 then as Karl Rove in "W" 2008.  The stunning Sienna Miller takes on the role of Tippi Hedren. I've been a fan of Miller since seeing her play the tragic, socialite/model, Edie Sedgwick, muse to Andy Warhol in "Factory Girl" 2006.

Oh, if you thought I was done talking about "Hitchcock" I'm not, as there will be a few comparisons in this review.

Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock
Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren
Imelda Staunton as Alma Reville Hitchcock (Imelda really does make a more believable Alma in appearance than Helen Mirren did.)
Conrad Kemp as Evan Hunter
Penelope Wilton as Peggie Robertson
Angelina Ingpen as Melanie
Director: Julian Jurrold

*This is not one of my snarky photo reviews in case you're expecting that.

If you're not familiar with this HBO film, it looks at the relationship between Tippi and Hitch from the time she was cast for "The Birds" and ends with final takes of "Marnie".  The resource material for this film clearly came from Tippi and others who wrote bios on Hichcock throughout the years so if you're one of many who feel Tippi's side of things doesn't wash, is fictitious or it's just her being vindictive or if you're not willing to watch anything that might taint your opinion that Hitch was perfect, a genius who treated his starlets like queens, then you won't care for this film.

If you're still here, well I hope you are, let's take a look at "The Girl" .  (I'll try not to give too much away for those who haven't seen the film but we all know how the relationship between Tippi and Hitch turned out, how the films turned out. Okay, to be fair, not everyone has seen "Marnie" which is fine even though it is my favorite Hitchcock film. "There, there now.")

As the film opens we see birds in a cage being manipulated with strings. ( I think we can all agree that Hitch loved delicate things that he could manipulate and who's to say if in his mind they were caged. He certainly did use his talents to work magic.)

We get a glimpse of Hitchcock who's on the other end of the strings. They've certainly done a fine job in transforming Jones into the 'Master of Suspense'. He's not as padded up as Hopkins in "Hitchcock". It seems they've opted to put him in baggy clothes but the facial prosthetics are quite good as they were for Hopkins but let's move along. 

We get our first glimpse of Tippi who's waiting outside of Hitch's office. While she waits her turn to meet the director who's casting for the lead in "The Birds" she admires his framed photographs of Novak, Kelly and Leigh. She certainly has big shoes to fill but no pressure.

The outspoken Hitch is critical of her wardrobe choices and her lack of acting experience but he perks up briefly upon finding out that she's a divorcée. No pesky husband roaming around the set!

We're quickly reminded that Tippi was a single mom during this time, with Melanie Griffith around 5 yrs old when her mother started filming "The Birds".

We get a few scenes of Hitch behind the camera, giving Tippi tips on how to walk, stand, emote, immerse herself into the character, Melanie Daniels.

We get our first glimpse of Alma Hitchcock as they watch Tippi's screen test. If only we could read her mind. I can imagine she's thinking "Here we go again!...This man, this genius and ANOTHER blond obsession!"

At a formal lunch with Hitch and Alma to announce she got the part of a lifetime, Tippi has already been transformed into a movie star. This should turn out splendidly. 

A quick look at birds being fed then filmed at the city dump as we prepare to make a picture.

As they did over the making of "Psycho", the studio is already riding Hitch. This time for giving Tippi a 7 year contract before the first scene of "The Birds" has even been shot. Hitch reminds the boss that Tippi is single so she won't be getting pregnant. An odd reason for signing an actress. (This topic was also brought up in "Hitchcock" when referring to Leigh and Vera Miles. I think it's safe to say that when you commit to Hitch, you commit to doing or not doing a lot of things. )

Hitch oversees everything from the color of Tippi's lipstick to the perfect shade of blond on her gorgeous head.

He's also made sure she has a dressing room fit for a star. 

While "Hitchcock" shows Alma as a very opinionated, a strong woman who voices her distaste for Hitch's obvious obsession with his leading ladies, this Alma is quite passive and timid. Make no mistake though that she's fully aware and often uncomfortable with his familiarity and tasteless jokes when it comes to these women.

The first day of filming is a cold and miserable day with torrential rain but Tippi doesn't seem to mind as she amuses herself with one of the 'stunt' birds on set. She then walks off with one of the set designers.

This doesn't escape the hawkish eyes of Hitch who's waiting out the weather in his car. 

Watch the innocent flirting, Tippi or you'll find yourself alone with a rogue bird!

For now, a vulgar limerick will do.

The scenery and the classic cars are quite spectacular. 

If what takes place inside the car is remotely true, it's not spectacular but shocking.  I won't give too much away here. Settle down, Hitch!

We're ready to film the phone booth scene and all we need is Tippi. Let's hope she wasn't too shaken by yesterdays events. (This is one of a couple of scenes where I'm distracted by Toby Jones's small stature as Hitch had a presence, wasn't dwarfed by his surroundings. Toby Jones is 5'5 where as Hitchcock was 5'7 and well over 200 lbs.)

As she awaits the ACTION cue from Hitch, she appears apprehensive but who can blame her. 

This would traumatize me, injured by it or not. Mistake or not! Of course Hitch walks off without comment after the take, seemingly pleased with what just happened. (I'm terrified of birds. I always have been. Of course I'm not too fond of broken glass flying at me either.)

Hitch sends his secretary, Peggy to smooth things over. (Yes, that's actress, Penelope Wilton who you might recognize if you're a Downton Abbey fan. She was also fabulous in "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" better known as my moms latest favorite film.)

We get a close up to remind us of why Tippi isn't so willing to press on or forgive Hitch.

The two meet over champagne to smooth things over and discuss why it's so important for her character to face a lot of birds alone in a dark attic. Awww, she's such a push over for the sake of his vision.

There are no apologies but as a piece offering he leaves the "Marnie" script for her to read. (If she's not seeing red now, she soon will be! Zinnngg!) Of course we all know and it's made apparent in the film that Tippi was given the part only because Grace Kelly turned it down. A bit of trivia: January Jones was originally cast as Tippi but turned it down due to her pregnancy.

We see an injured and terrified Tippi go through take after take of the attic scene. The crew's visibly upset and concerned for her well being, wanting to stop. (This was hard to watch!)

Within a few weeks, things are better on the surface as they make their way to the premiere. It's amazing they both got through making the film in one piece.

We're back on the set to start filming "Marnie" and Hitch is up to his old tricks.

Peggy has intervened on Tippi's behalf to try and persuade Hitch to stop forcing the situation, keep their relationship professional.

It's time for the "Marnie" wedding night 'lovemaking' scene and I think we can all speculate on who Tippi was thinking of with that glassy, blank stare. (She really does remind me of Tippi during that scene.)

We watch Hitch make a creepy phone call to Tippi on Christmas Eve while Alma looks on in disgust.

More really uncomfortable conversation before we get to the point that Tippi's being held down by Hitch's control over her career. 

Even Alma has had enough. I'm glad she's found her voice. It couldn't have been easy for her having to live with Hitch's play things for years.

The film closes with the final scene of "Marnie" and Tippi showing relief that her working relationship with Hitch is over.

This film clearly depicts Alfred Hitchcock as a controlling, abusive, sadistic, creep. He obviously isn't around to defend this depiction and there are a lot of critics who feel that Tippi and others who might have been privy to this behavior distorted or even made all of it up.  It's not my place to judge whether it's fact or fiction since I wasn't there and most who dispute it weren't there either. If even a third of it was true then it's a sad situation for all concerned.  

Having said this, I think that we all want to believe that our idols are perfect, without flaws or sin. We put them on a pedestal and we're ready to defend them when anything is said to tarnish that pristine image. I know that when it comes to Charlie Chaplin, I'm one of his biggest apologists there is. He was brilliant and I adore him but at the same time I know that he had a lot of flaws off set and some of his personal decisions regarding young women were shameful.

I guess what I'm saying is, we don't know how Hitch or anyone else is off camera in their personal lives.  Surely we can't all believe that with Hitch's subject matter, what he chose to fight to depict on-screen, even subtly that he left everything behind when he walked off set at night.  He was a genius when it came to film making but I can distinguish between that and what he may have been like as a person. 

Please feel free to leave your comments but keep in mind that I did not write the script for "The Girl". : )  Also, if you've seen the film please share your opinions on it and if you haven't, I do hope you'll give it a chance. The acting was great, the scenery, costumes, automobiles. We also get a glimpse of a lot of the techniques, the secrets that Hitch used to make his films stand out above other director's work. That's enough to waste an hour or so on a film then if you want to rip it to shreds, that's alright too. 

See ya soon!


  1. Toby Jones wore prosthetics too? I can't tell from these images.

    1. Why, Rich, are you calling Toby Jones fat? ha ha Yes, I mentioned in the review that Jones also wore prosthetics to give him those jowls. Although he didn't get the barrel belly that Hitch had and they gave Hopkins.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Hi Page! Well, I must say that after watching "The Girl," I felt the need for a shower (or at least a handi-wipe). The very wise Louise Brooks said something to the effect that, subconsciously, men really wanted power in order to get beautiful women. She knew her apples.

    1. Hi FlickChick!
      That Miss Brooks was not only beautiful but wise. : )
      I certainly know what you mean about needing a shower. Grrr

      I'm glad you were able to see the film.

  3. I thought that this film was excellent but I can understand why people wouldn't like it. Sienna Miller was superb.

    1. BT,
      I'm glad you enjoyed the film too. If only it had not come out right before Hitchcock I think more people would be talking about it. They both stand on their own as entertaining, informative films on the master of suspense

      I do like Sienna Miller. I saw her in Alfie and then Layer Cake not long ago but my favorite of her roles so far has been as Edie Sedgwick.

      Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation about The Girl. I hope to see ya back soon.

  4. Page, first and most importantly...who the heck is January Jones? Never heard of her in my life -- that name sounds like a porn star! LOL! I wish I could see this, but I don't have HBO. Hopefully it will come out on some other channel. Your article was fair to both Tippi and Hitchcock, and of course I completely agree that the kind of person an artist is does not take away from what they create. It's a big mistake to ever think we really know the person behind the actor, director, painter, whatever. Oh, and I have another question. Are you sure Hitch was only over 200 pounds. 300 sounds closer -- hardy har.

    1. Hi there Becks!
      January Jones is this very pretty blond actress who's best known for playing Betty Draper in the hit show Mad Men. Several people have compared her looks to Grace Kelly. And she's admitted that there's a bit of Grace and Tippi in her character on the show.

      Most recently she's been in the news for her unexpected pregnancy right after filming the latest X-Men. She hasn't given the name of the father. (She's single)

      I'll keep my eye out for The Girl. Would be wonderful if it ended up on Youtube so you can see it but HBO has pretty tight reigns on their projects.

      I was being kind when I said "over 200 lbs" but your estimate is closer. ha ha
      Thanks for taking the time to read this review.

    2. If you have a region-free DVD player it was released on DVD in the UK last week. The current price is 14 pounds.

  5. Hi Page,
    Well, here I am to see what the commotion about January Jones was/ well as "The Girl." I haven't seen "The Girl," having read Donald Spoto's book "Spellbound by Beauty" about Hitchcock's blonde leading ladies for which Tippi was a major source. I think "The Girl" must've at least been influenced by that book. I don't care much for Spoto with relation to Hitchcock for a particular reason. While Hitchcock was alive, Spoto got to know him and gained his confidence - and wrote a book called "The Art of Alfred Hitchcock" - a book that sung Hitch's praises to the heavens. After Hitchcock's death, Spoto wrote "The Dark Side of Genius," a book that focused on a seamier side of Hitch. Very poor form, I thought and still do. Then came "Spellbound by Beauty." When it comes to Tippi, I do have sympathy for any suffering she endured from Hitchcock, but I don't think she had the potential to be a great movie star - which she implies she did and that Hitchcock prevented her from achieving it. Actually, I've always thought that it is her casting that flaws "The Birds." "Marnie" has nothing to recommend it (except Sean Connery, who is miscast - as if that even mattered) other than camp melodrama.

    By the way, I referenced Spoto's lengthy Marilyn Monroe bio for a blog about her last summer. A great deal of info. But toward the end Spoto begins to zero in on MM's last shrink, Dr. Greenson, and all but accuses the doctor and Marilyn's companion of conspiring to kill her. I think Greenson really fumbled his handling of Marilyn but I'll never believe he literally did her in.

    As for January Jones - I think she - or Betty Draper - seems more Tippi-like than Sienna Miller who is a softer sort, more Grace Kelly-esque.

    1. Hi L.E!
      I so appreciate your honest contribution to the discussion of "The Girl". I haven't read Spoto's book on Hitch.

      I did read your Monroe article last summer but somehow I missed the Spoto correlation. I plan to go re-read it.

      January is an enigma when it comes to who she tries to portray as Betty Draper but that doesn't prevent me from adoring her for her beauty and her many flaws. : )

      Thanks so much for stopping by and contributing, giving your honest take on this film from the info you hold to be true.

    2. Page, There was a scene in season 2(if memory serves) of "Mad Men" where Betty goes for a horse ride in full riding regalia (it is right out of "Marnie"). You must revisit! Loved it...

      Here's an image:

    3. Is Ms. January Jones from "Mad Men"? I don't know why, but I didn't start watching Mad Men when it first started, and didn't join it late. This lady is striking, would be a good Tippi. Guess I should apologize to her for saying that her name sounds like a porn star name -- NAH!!

    4. Yes,
      It's that January. Odd name for sure. : )

    5. L.E,
      I do remember that episode and thinking how gorgeous Jones was in her riding outfit. "Marnie" came to mind right away. I liked Betty Draper much better during that season. This whole 'fat and depressed' just to cover her pregnancy was pretty annoying but I do understand they needed to come up with something.
      Thanks for the link. : )

  6. Toby loked a little terrifying for me! I don't hae HBO in my house, so it'll be a little more difficult for me to watch the film. For sure Hitchcock payed attention to evry small detail of his productions and was a great director but, as I do with all my idols, I don't consider his personal life when analyzing his body of work.

    1. Le,
      Thanks for weighing in. It's too bad you don't get to see HBO shows, films. They've really stepped it up over the past few years with some great projects.

  7. I'm so glad that you wrote a post on the film 'The Girl', I really did not know if I really wanted to watch it. But.. after reading your review I think I will.

    1. Hi Dawn,
      I do hope you'll see the film then let me know your thoughts on it.
      Hope you're enjoying your weekend.

  8. Page, your post is compelling, with nice touches of wit and food for thought. When you get right down to it, Alfred Hitchcock was a brilliant filmmaker with issues. I've always thought THE BIRDS was kind of a downer, with an ending that just kinda dangles, but that's just one gal's opinion. I think THE GIRL is a compelling film, if not necessarily one that I'd watch again and again, but I thought the performances were spot-on, especially Sienna Miller and Toby Jones (height notwithstanding). None of us can really know what truly happened between Tippi Hedren and Alfred Hitchcock while making THE BIRDS or MARNIE, but whatever Hitchcock was like as a person, it doesn't spoil my enjoyment of overall body of work. I don't want to marry the guy, I just want to see his movies! :-) Excellent post, my friend!