I watched the HBO film The Girl shortly after its initial broadcast, but for some reason, I’ve resisted writing about it probably because I’m not comfortable evaluating the TV movie on its own merits.
Over the years, I’ve taught a seminar called Gender and Hitchcock and have done quite a bit of reading about Alfred Hitchcock and his films, including Donald Spoto’s book (a source for the film) The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock.
There are numerous reports supporting the creepy and cruel side of the renowned director (played by Toby Jones), the portrait focused on in this film recounting his relationship with Tippi Hedren (Sienne Miller) from her discovery as a model through the shooting of their two films together, The Birds and Marnie.
There are also reports, some by family members, discounting the negative accounts.
Certainly, the tone of The Girl fits well within the former. But, since I’m able to fill in so many gaps from other reading and from seeing most of Hitchcock’s films, it’s difficult for me to evaluate the film as a standalone work – I know, I know, that’s what I always advocate in making judgments about films.
I will say that although Jones and Miller do not particularly look like Hitchcock and Hedren that they evoke the iconic director and his star believably and Imelda Staunton and Penelope Wilton are good as Alma Hitchcock (the director’s collaborator and wife) and Peggy Robertson (his secretary).
It is also fun to watch some of the behind-the-scenes sequences on the soundstage and on location and to look for resonances between this film and the Hitchcock classics.
But, does it work beyond this framework? I just can’t say definitively, which may ultimately be a way of saying that it may not.