If you’re watching The Girl on HBO you’ll have seen the screen test where Hitch directs Tippi Hedren. Hedren appears here far more flirtatious and sexy than Siena Miller plays her, however Miller’s performance is touching and vulnerable. Both she and Toby Jones make an interesting Hitch and Tippi – not quite exactly how the two were but serving this story well nonetheless. I suspect there is more to the story than we get from this film. You’ll also want to read the New Yorker’s Richard Brody’s piece on the film.
I watched The Girl with great interest, being that The Birds is one of my favorites of all of Hitchcock’s incomparable body of work. The Girl is an interesting snapshot of Hitchcock’s sexual and psychological obsession with Tippi Hedren. I don’t think the film quite gets to the real reason for this obsession. Maybe part of it is that she exists almost entirely as a Hitchcock creation. She is plucked from obscurity – gets a makeover into a classic Hitchcock blonde and then has her career ruined because she won’t accept his sexual advances.
Sexual harassment wasn’t a valid complaint back then, especially by hungry actresses looking for work. Even today, no one dares speak the truth for fear of never getting work. What does telling the story now do other than give us a better understanding of who Hitchcock may have been, or who Hedren may have been. Beyond that, though, it probably isn’t going to alter anyone’s view of Hitchcock’s body of work.
One of the best things about the film, other than the great lines of dialogue Toby Jones gets to say. In this film, Hitchcock himself becomes like so many of his menacing characters – controlling, out to do harm. But The behind the scenes stuff about The Birds is equally fascinating. If you know the film well (I’ve seen it at least 50 times) you’ll love seeing how some of the scenes took shape. I would have preferred at least thirty more minutes of just that. The film hints at what inspired so much of Hitch’s genius behind the camera, the instincts he had which are illogical but work so well in film, like Hedren asking why Melanie Daniels would go up to the attic alone. “Because I want her to” was his answer. I don’t buy the notion that he did it just to have her be attacked by birds. Hitchcock was one of a kind cinematically and that is a great example of that manifested itself.
I also like how The Birds was originally going to be about a schoolteacher but Hitchcock said it had to be a story about glamor. The schoolteacher stayed in the script but she would be a supporting character, a grim reminder of how the love interest’s life had been mostly ruined by his possessive mother.
So many Hitchcock archetypes, so little time.
On this count, I agree with Alessandra Stanley’s assessment, “The trouble with “The Girl” is that it tries to psychoanalyze Hitchcock but fails by trying to know the man too much. It’s a movie about Hitchcock that ignores his best advice: ‘Suspense is like a woman. The more left to the imagination, the more the excitement.'”
There are things we can know and things we can’t know. It appears to have been a cut-and-dried case of sexual harassment. But something tells me there is more to the story and whatever that something is, we’ll never know.