Published on June 20th, 2013 | by The Editor0
The Girl is an HBO original movie, about the relationship between famed director Alfred Hitchcock and one in a long line of blonde leading ladies, Tippi Hedren, during the making of The Birds and Marnie.
I’ve read a few biographies about Hitchcock, and I’m no stranger to the fact that he wanted to fill the void in his professional life that Grace Kelly had left when she became Princess of Monaco. Enter model/actress Tippi Hedren, whom Hitch discovered on television (replacing one blonde with another also puts a crazy spin on the plot of Vertigo, but that’s another write up). It’s common knowledge that Hitchcock became obsessed with Hedren on some level, or at least, with creating a new blonde for his films, modeled after Kelly. As weird as this seems, its not all that weird, really — after all, he created false reality for a living. He believed that the blonde was an integral part of his films, and he wanted one that looked and acted in a very specific way. But let’s come back to this idea…
I was hoping that The Girl would be better than this year’s other movie about the auteur, the interesting, but uneven, Hitchcock. Toby Jones does do a better Hitchcock than Anthony Hopkins, but alas, The Girl is a flawed affair, sometimes in execution of the script itself, but mostly about the accusations it’s making about Alfred Hitchcock himself. I have to fully admit here that I am biased, and I could be totally wrong about what I believe happened. No one will really know, and Hitchcock isn’t around to defend himself, which makes it feel all the cheaper. What I’m trying to say is, for anyone that likes Hitchcock, The Girl is hard to watch — it’s unnerving to see one of your cinematic idols being turned into an evil cartoon character — a hand-wringing, moustache-twirling, rapey Darth Vader caricature.
Hedren claims Hitchcock tried to force himself on her and that he ruined her career. To be fair (and not an idiot-fanboy), I’m sure the truth about their relationship is somewhere in the middle, between where some of the biographies leave it, and where Hedren’s version begins. Did he try to kiss her in an awkward sexual advance? Or did he actually try to rape her, as the movie is intonating?
While I know that Hitchcock blocked her career to some degree (which isn’t uncommon either), her contract was eventually sold to Universal, and she got a bad rep for refusing to work on some television show. She also later went on to appear in some 50-movies and TV shows. So, is it really Hitchcock’s fault that she didn’t become the next huge star? And why had none of the blondes he had been obsessed with before ever made similar claims? The movie ends up reading like Hedren is milking it for all it’s worth, and you never know where the truth ends and imagined slights begin.
I feel like I need to mention how carefully I have to tread here. I do not want this to seem like a “blame the victim” mentality. We are living in a modern rape culture that supports these kinds of shitty attitudes. And if there were ever a way of proving that Hedren was being honest, then I would be the first one in line to cast out my respect for Hitchcock the person. However, it’s worth pointing out, that a lot of these situations are already documented and no one has backed up her stories beyond what we already knew. This isn’t your average accusation from people we don’t know — it’s one of the biggest film legends of all time; he has been well studied, and was surrounded by a set full of people most of the time. I also don’t want to blame the victim in cases of spousal abuse, when they stay around and feel they can’t leave — but Hedren could have left at any time. How bad did she want to be a movie star? So bad that she endured constant and very physical sexual attacks? And if the movie wants to make her a hero for putting up with this to become a celebrity, what kind of shitty message is that sending to women in abusive relationships?
All that said, I can’t know what happened in real life, but the movie feels like Hedren thinks the universe revolves around her. Let me give you an example; Hitchcock originally told Hedren that the birds in The Birds would be mechanical, but when it came down to it, she was subjected to several days of shooting with live birds (and almost having an eye put out). This is totally deplorable, but it is also a filmmaker executing his film, and there are plenty of similar stories in movie history. When they were making The Exorcist, director William Friedkin caused several actors to be injured while getting their natural reactions to a painful back harness that threw them about, simulating possession. He even slapped a priest in the face to get him to shake for the camera. Were Hitchcock and Friedkin assholes for this? Yes — it is inexcusable. But does it mean they were out to get the actors personally with a personal vendetta? No — in fact, it means they saw actors like disposable cattle, which is more of an argument against violent sexual obsession.
Anyway, this review has gotten away from me and turned into a court case for Hitchcock vs. Hedren. I thought there was a lot to like about The Girl, from the acting to the scenes about the business of making these films. And while I will freely admit bias in watching Alfred Hitchcock splattered with some very serious accusations, I also think that a more interesting film would have done a better job of creating more than a one dimensional evil rapist character. That would have turned a hatchet job into something more thought provoking.
2 Dorks out of 5 on the Geek-o-Meter