Toby Jones plays Alfred Hitchcock in “The Girl,” the story of his svengali-like relationship with actress Tippi Hedren during the making of “The Birds” and “Marnie,” currently running on HBO. Like his portrayal of Truman Capote in the 2005 biopic “Infamous,” which suffered in comparison to Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s turn in “Capote” the following year, his portrayal is destined to be overshadowed by an Oscar-winning actor’s – in this case, Anthony Hopkins, who will portray the legendary director in the upcoming “Hitchcock.”
Jones captures Hitchcock’s voice and mannerisms brilliantly, but the script, the direction of Julian Jarrold, and the vacant, dead-eyed performance of Sienna Miller as Hedren, “The Girl” of the title, undermine him at every turn. The audience is meant to sympathize with Miller’s character, and be creeped out by Jones’s obsessive, lecherous Hitchcock. While it achieves the latter, to some degree, Miller’s non-performance makes Hitch all the more sympathetic.
Read: Alfred Hitchcock’s Greatest Hits
“The Girl” is reminiscent of another HBO film, “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” in its attempt to demystify, and in the process do a complete and thorough hatchet job upon, a cinematic genius. We see none of the brilliance of the filmmaker, only a sad, cruel caricature of the man, “a handsome prince forever trapped in the body of a frog.” The dialog, by Gwyneth Hughes, is overly obvious in its vilification of Hitchcock, while never fleshing out the role of Hedren, who, like Miller, is something of a cipher here. His advances rejected by his protégé, Hitch laments that despite his lust for Tippi, he “can’t get it up…impotent.”
In the end, Hedren walks away, literally, from Hitchcock and her film career. Interviewed recently by The Huffington Post, Hedren took issue with some elements of the film, but also reaffirmed its take on Hitchcock: “There wasn’t time to show the wonderful people I met, the wonderful discussions Hitch and I had, the great gift he gave me being not only my director but my drama coach…I think we’re dealing with such a devious mind, one of genius, of incredible creativity. There is so much wrong with that mind…He was evil.”
Evil, perhaps, but also a genius. The same cannot be said for the people who made “The Girl.”
To subscribe to the Austin Classic Movies Examiner, click HERE.
J.M. Dobies, Austin Classic Movies Examiner Facebook Page