Alfred Hitchcock‘s most disturbing act of directing took place in how he handled Tippi Hedren.
The lives of starlets from the Golden Era of Hollywood are endlessly fascinating, especially when it covers some of their most recognizable and fame-stocked years. We get one such look as Sienna Miller takes on the role of Tippi Hedren in “The Girl.” It also stars Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock.
This HBO movie focuses on the bizarre way Hitchcock came to find Hedren, as well as her traumatic experiences in working with him on the legendary movies The Birds and Marnie.
It was illuminating to see Hedren’s POV as a fragile ingenue who gets abused and broken down by a powerful, controlling Alfred Hitchcock. And the Hitchcock portrayed here is not glorified in the slightest. Rather “Hitch” is revealed as an abusive egomaniac who liked to control pretty things.
While I love Audrey Hepburn, Veronica Lake and Grace Kelly – I’ve never truly noticed Tippi Hedren as much before. (Both The Birds and Marnie looked too terrifying to watch when I was a younger teen and watching all these classics.) However, though not acquainted with her name, I’ve always known about the iconic image of a blonde in the green jacket, being attacked by birds. Everyone does. There’s even a Barbie Doll based on that. But this makes the title of this project all the more haunting. Because, who was Hedren? Who was “Tippi”? Who was the girl? And why don’t we know more about her?
Hitchcock saw her as a pretty, blonde girl template he could form. She was almost certainly a replacement for Grace Kelly in his mind. But he never cared about Hedren for who she was, or for her role as a Mother or blooming actress. And when she wasn’t the girl he wanted her to be, he punished her. Even though starred in two of his best films, he never gave her the respect she was owed. While obsessed with her, Hitchcock never let her have an identity past his own fantasy.
She didn’t need a name past the one he gave her – and he did, in fact, tell the media to address her as “Tippi” in quotes, sans a last name. To him, it seems she had no identity. She may not have been just a girl – she was the girl. But that label didn’t leave room for her to be much else. The real life story of Tippi and Hitch is as spooky and horrifying as the movies he’s so famous for directing.
Though not attached to Sienna Miller in any great way, I found her performance in The Girl to be magnetic and impressive. Miller’s performance doesn’t overshadow her character or the story, instead, Miller helps makes the story feel real. It was easy to believe that Hitchcock would be obsessed with her character.
Alma Hitchcock is played by Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter, Up the Garden Path), and assistant Peggy is played by Penelope Wilton (Doctor Who, Downton Abbey.)
In looking over the long list of awards Hendren has garnered over the years, my eyes flashed on “Lion and Lamb Award from Wildhaven” (1997.) That would actually be an appropriate tagline for the relationship between Hitchcock and Hedren – for Hitchcock was a predatory lion to Hendren’s accommodating lamb.
- A young Melanie Griffith is portrayed in this HBO movie. I couldn’t help but wonder how much Griffith remembers of her Mother during these times.
- You will be left wanting to re-watch Hitchcock classics. And wondering how the buttoned-up Grace Kelly ever dealt with him.
- Penelope Wilton’s character of Peggy mentions Maggie Smith, who Wilton currently works with on Downton Abbey.
- “Short answer? This is just the way Hitch wants me today.” – Tippi, The Girl
- There was nothing in the movie about him tapping her phone or dictating who she could and couldn’t date, which I was interested in having them explore.
- This is a perfect non-Halloween movie that will give still you a sufficient chill this October. The ending is especially eerie.
- The set, hair styling and costume design work are outstanding and I would be surprised if an Emmy nod didn’t find its way to this project.
The Girl premieres Saturday night at 8 pm ET on HBO. Julian Jarrold directs this movie.
The Girl Review 2012. Photo Credit: HBO