Friday, March 8, 2013

Magic a'la Mode Presents: "The Girl" Vs. "Hitchcock", A Deeper Comparison


Sometimes it becomes apparent that Hollywood choses to focus their energy on bringing to life on screen a persons previous life in droves. Maybe its the glamour they offered, the views one could take on their own existence, or just the publics fascination. But I always find it funny that not one but usually multiple similar bio-pics come out around the same year, focusing on such an individual.

This past year, Hollywood has chosen this individual to be the infamous icon of directing, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock, as to many a film student, is considered genius across the board. His use of simplicity in his visuals are memorable beyond their initial release and yet are so completely hard to configure their perfection that future filmmakers still try but yet can't seem to completely capture the brilliance. Many say that Hitchcock's two most memorable films are Psycho (which defined the slasher genre from then on) and The Birds (which continued Hitchcock's brilliance) Those two would also be the subjects of these bio-pics.



First, lets discuss the TV movie equivalent The Girl, starring Sienna Miller and Toby Jones. The Girl speaks of the relationship between model turned actress Tippi Hedren and Hitchcock (mostly of them making The Birds), and how screwed up their interaction got. In many ways, one could compare this in a way to Beauty and the Beast, as even in the script a reference to a similar tale (The Frog Prince) is made in a scene where Tippi's stylist says Hitchcock "Is like a prince trapped in a frog's body", makes one think this could be a story of sympathy. But when this relationship is tied to one of the most infamous filmmaking moments of all time (In which Tippi was thrown onto a set with live birds eating her face, which took over five days to shoot), lets just say things never end up pretty.

But interestingly enough, some of my favorite moments from The Girl were the ones showcasing true pain, emotionally and physically from the characters. Listen, I am no fan of torture porn films like Saw, but I am always impressed with the level of talent it takes for an actor to truly dive into a controversial role, especially when they are two real people within the public eye as Hedren and Hitchcock were.

This is what makes The Girl so interesting, which really comes from Toby Jones performance. You can tell Jones is meant for these kind of chameleon like roles, in which he truly develops a relationship within himself with his character. Aside from the incredible make up, he really takes on Hitch full force. Miller on the other hand does the best she can. Its more impressive them her dreadful take in Factory Girl, but nothing beats her in Interview (Where she is, in fact, in another weird relationship, but with Steve Buscemi.)

You can also tell the visual attention to detail in this HBO production. Bird's Eye View like shots of Hitchcock on staircases, Miller's period appropriate hair styles, even the perfectly aligned cuts on her face during the infamous cage scene, you can't ignore the flawless take on this small section of history. Listen, I truly appreciate all that is mentioned above. But when you look at the facts, this is obviously only one side of the story (mostly on a sympathetic end for Hedren's side) which makes the film slightly hard to manage as a whole, but still has re-watch ability.



But then you have Hitchcock, which though probably made with a higher budget seems closer in relation to a Disney or PBS afternoon special - with every aspect of fluff humanly imaginable. As you can see from the detail and interest I had in The Girl above, I can honestly say that complete polar opposite when it comes to it's competition. Though clearly Hitchcock has the better and more well known cast, it has a huge issue at hand: What it is trying to convey? Yes, it visually is stunning. Yes, the make up on Anthony Hopkins is flawless, and of course, Helen Mirren is in it - nough said.

So then what is the problem? Simple, there is no real compassion in this. I can definitely see that there was effort made in this production, but if you were to compare it say to the infamous Mommy Dearest, it blows its subject matter way out of proportion and with so many fantasy elements of tong and cheek humor it ruins its message, if it ever had one to even begin with. The story of how Hitchock made Psycho should be one that brings people in droves because it is interesting. Instead, we are given the story of an overweight man with an addiction to looking at blondes, which is such an obvious mark about the man, if you know your Hitchcock history, that it seems almost cartoonish and silly.

I will say that Helen Mirren is the only saving grace of this movie, and is probably the only reason I stuck around. Of course, she is the Barbie like portrayal of her real life counterpart (Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville) and in many occasions its clearly Alma's story all together, and not at all the story of how a movie is made. So, I ask then - what were the filmmakers hoping to accomplish? Because all I can conceive was their attempts at making a comedic parody of a interesting man's existence, especially coming from Hopkin's overall silly attempt, is unfortunate and disappointing in the eyes of many a Hitchcock fan such as myself.

Overall, it's clear that neither of these films are perfect, which is the case with most films in general. But my award for the better would have to go with the The Girl. It knows more of what it wants, even if thats campy, and Toby Jones is clearly the better and more believable Hitchcock. It's a film that is more sure of itself and its decisions and gives at least some sort of an interesting and less candy sweet rendition of a story we know too well about, even if it's coming from such a mysterious figure.

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