We are definitely in the midst of a Hitchcock renaissance. With Vertigo overtaking the top spot on the Sight and Sound critics’ poll from Citizen Kane and two biographical films being released in the same year, one on television and one in theaters. The master of suspense who never won an Oscar is FINALLY getting his due.
The two biographical films hitting screens are The Girl an HBO original film is based on the book Spellbound by Beauty and Hitchcock, based on Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. What the films have in common is they both focus on the same period of the director’s life, but they differ quite a bit when it comes to the portrayal of the man that is Alfred Hitchcock.
See Hitchcock portrays Hitchcock as more of an eccentric but well natured husband, trying to keep his marriage together while his wife is looking elsewhere with her writer friend Whitfield Cook. Hitchcock’s affections in the film towards his leading ladies are treated, as simply schoolboy crushes nothing more. But in The Girl we experience the darker more obsessive side of the man, as we watch his relationship with Tippi Hedren unfold while filming The Birds and how Hitchcock ultimately ruined her career.
While both films touch on the myth of the “Hitchcock Blonde” The Girl paints a much starker portrait of a man very reminiscent of James Stuart’s character in Vertigo. After meeting Hedren and hiring her for The Birds, Hitchcock then begins to re-create her in the mold of so many actresses that came before her. When she denies his advances, she is forced to ride out the rest of the 7 year contract with only one role allowed by Hitchcock during that time.
I tend to agree with this reality a bit more than Hitchcock after reading Spellbound by Beauty the book, which The Girl is based on. The book is essentially a collection of interviews with all of Hitchcock’s leading ladies organized by film and what they say really isn’t all that pleasant; but it’s very consistent. While he loved his blondes, when they didn’t act and behave exactly as he wanted things tended to get ugly on set.
While we do see some evidence of this in Hitchcock, the film seems to lean on the side of fiction to try to tell a more compelling story. The love element between Hitch and Alma seems to come out of nowhere in the third act to support a very uneven narrative. Don’t get me wrong The Girl definitely struggles at times as well, but both films are nothing more than glorified made for TV biographies.
Essentially, they are both a mediocre look at an extraordinaire director and I really think his story deserved much more.
So which film do you believe? Honestly its Hitchcock’s word versus The Girl’s. To me Hitchcock just seemed to candy coat a man known for being in touch with some of the darkest recesses of the human mind and while it was enjoyable to a point, it just didn’t ring true. Hitchcock was a master filmmaker, but he was also a very flawed man. I really think that is what helped him to create the films we all know and love, so I think even those flaws should be part of the picture.
Hitchcock 3.5 out of 5
The Girl 3.75 out of 5