For film lovers of my generation, the genius of Hitchcock is something we appreciate as late-comers to a wonderful party. The host has left, but the fun lives on. We earnestly immerse ourselves in his work, but we cannot recreate the sense of excitement and fascination that must have surrounded his projects when he first committed them to screen. This film, partly drawn from interviews of those involved, attempts to throw us into the middle of that excitement – we are plunged right onto the sets where Hitchcock is making The Birds and Marnie. But there is a dark slant to this tale. The glitz and glammer of 1960s Hollywood is there, but a sinister edge poisons the beautiful vistas and shining lights. Hitchcock is obsessed with Tippi Hedren, his leading female actor in both the aforementioned films.
I cannot say whether this is utter fiction, over-embellished fact, or an accurate recreation of what actually happened, but I am convinced that the research that went into this production was extensive. I assume that it is close to the truth.
Toby Jones’s is very convincingly made up to look like the famous director. At first I wasn’t sure – at one point I thought they had modelled him on Matt Lucas in Alice in Wonderland – but very soon I stopped noticing the make-up. This is, of course, mostly due to the magic of Toby Jones, an actor who is belatedly starting to get the recognition and acclaim he has deserved for many years. He really does get Hitchcock perfectly. I am keen to see how Anthony Hopkins plays him in another upcoming biopic, as I cannot imagine it being done better than this.
Sienna Miller, as Tippi Hedren, acts her part competently enough, though I felt we never really got to see into Hedren’s soul. She remained, as she was to Hitchcock it seems, a bit of a mystery. Maybe this was the intention, but I would have liked to see something with a little more depth to it. However, Miller is adequate and very watchable.
The real supporting gem of the film is Imelda Staunton, as Hitchcock’s long-suffering wife Alma. Her despair at Hitchcock’s obsession with his leading lady, hidden under a stern brow and otherwise strong nature, was masterfully realised. She is one of Britain’s finest and most diverse actors, and I always enjoy watching her perform.
Julian Jarrold, another diverse talent, directed Kinky Boots and Becoming Jane. Here he directs with understated skill, and rightly decides the audience should be more intrigued by Hitchcock’s directing methods than his own. He takes a step back and directs the drama with a suitably unfussy and simple style that works rather beautifully.
We do, as a film and television consuming public, rather enjoy shining lights into the darkest of places. We also enjoy discovering reproachable secrets of famous celebrities. Hitchcock’s obsession with ‘The Girl’ may never be fully understood, but this film works well as an interpretation of their difficult relationship. Films about films and those who make them are not always successful, but this one chooses its focus and crafts it into something deeply involving.
The Girl, directed by Julian Jarrold, was shown on BBC HD & BBC TWO on Boxing Day 2012. It is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until 2 January 2013. It is released on DVD on January 7 2013, Certificate 15.