TV Review - The Girl

Despite being released prior, in October, this HBO movie is almost a sequel to the film Hitchcock (2012) that hit limited theaters last December. I neglected seeing it until the Emmy nominations, which were announced on July 18. The Girl received six nominations. The only one I would advocate or support is the nomination for Toby Jones who plays the iconic Alfred Hitchcock in the latter half of his career.

Toby Jones played the iconic Truman Capote, the real-world author in the film Infamous (2006). He played Capote within a year of another actor playing Capote in the same historical period. While Philip Seymour Hoffman who was that other actor playing Capote got all the accolades, I thought Jones' performance was better. Jones was overlooked because his Capote movie was released after Hoffman's.

This time around, Jones is playing Alfred Hitchcock within a year of Anthony Hopkins playing that same character. The exception is that Jones' performance comes before Hopkins', but again, I believe Jones' Hitchcock is the better of the two. Not that I think Jones is a better actor than Hopkins in general, Jones is simply aided with a screenplay and a director that crafts a more interesting take or interpretation of Hitchcock than the other.

Both Hopkins and Jones nail the mannerisms and the voice very well. Hopkins' mannerisms and voice are a bit over-the-top, but both fill the shoes fairly well. Where the two diverge is that essentially Hopkins' character is the protagonist or the hero of his movie and Jones' character is the antagonist or the villain of The Girl. As such, Hopkins' character is fairer and is perhaps a more true representation of who Hitchcock was, but Jones' character is more entertaining and as written is more dynamic and thrilling as a presence on screen.

It's not just because Jones plays Hitchcock as a villain. It's because Jones plays the British filmmaker with no reverance. Hopkins' film does treat Hitchcock with reverance and as if he's this amazing person who is amazing in almost every way. Hitchcock is given a bit of a personal problem, but it's done more to service Helen Mirren's character more than Hopkins. Mirren played Alma, the wife of Hitchcock.

In Hitchcock, the British director and his wife work mostly independently to produce the film Psycho (1960). In The Girl, Hitchcock, without the help of his wife, works on the immediate follow-up The Birds (1963), except the focus is on Tippi Hedren, played by Sienna Miller, a Naomi Watts substitute, and her difficulty with Hitchcock who allegedly abused and harrassed her from almost beginning to end, mostly on set and often while filming the bird attack scenes.

Hitchcock is one of my favorite filmmakers of all time. In the recent Sight & Sound poll, his film Vertigo (1958) was named the best. Clearly, he's very much beloved, so it's unnerving to see him portrayed as an abuser and a sexual harasser, but, for screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes and director Julian Jarrold, it's better to tell a good and compelling story than pay homage or be reverent of Hitchcock.

I don't know if anything that happens in this movie is true. It's based on the book Spellbound by Beauty by Donald Spoto. If it is true, it would mean that Hitchcock was lecherous, predatory and obsessed with Hedren who Miller plays with such quiet strength. That may offend some people, and some people may say that it's not good to upset the image of this great director.

Yet, this movie makes the point that addresses this issue. After The Birds, Hitchcock and Hedren go to make Marnie (1964), despite their problems. Hitchcock discusses the casting of Sean Connery opposite Hedren, and there is a question of Connery's character doing a horrible act in the film. Some people don't like it because they don't want Connery's character to lose sympathy, and Hitchcock states, "Sympathy is not the point."

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 31 mins.


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