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HBO’s Hitchcock Movie Is Creepy, Disjointed

 

Alfred Hitchcock could have gone through binders of 400 women with acting experience to cast the female lead in “The Birds,” his terrifying follow-up to “Psycho.”

He chose a pretty blonde model and single mother of Swedish heritage named Tippi Hedren who didn’t have any acting experience and was unknown to American audiences.

Toby Jones and Sienna Miller

The weirdly disjointed and occasionally entertaining HBO movie “The Girl” attempts to go deeper into why he cast her at 9 tonight on the pay-channel.

It really isn’t much of a Hitchcock mystery. Hitchcock liked how Hedren looked and eventually became more than a little psycho about her.

Based on the book “Spellbound by Beauty,” ”The Girl” features a strong, compelling performance by Toby Jones – lately of “Snow White and the Huntsman” and “The Hunger Games” – as the creepy director. Sienna Miller, who has been in a bunch of lesser known films, fills the most important requirement for Hedren – she’s beautiful.

After a positive start to a relationship in which Hitchcock was in control and had all the power, things go very badly and Hedren is tortured by Hitchcock. The film makes some of his directorial choices seem instinctive rather than planned. It becomes a short, quick amateurish psychological study of the legendary English director. He comes across as a creepy old man with a poor body image who obsesses about Hedren sexually and forcibly tries to act upon it. It is difficult to watch the film without wondering if Hedren was the only actress he treated this way.

He does it all in front or alongside his supportive wife. The crew of the film also is horrified to see Hitchcock’s on-set treatment of Hedren in one terrifying scene involving scores of live birds attacking her.

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t develop Hedren’s naïve character enough to make her sympathetic or to care deeply about how she was treated during and after the two films she made with Hitchcock under the seven-year contract he gave her.  She also starred in a second Hitchcock film “Marnie” (with Sean Connery) and the film suggests she was treated just as badly as she was on “The Birds.”

The film also doesn’t give any indication of how “The Birds” was received after it premiered and whether it added or distracted from Hitchcock’s legacy. My vague memory is its reviews in the 1960s were initially mixed, though it later was considered a classic.

“The Girl” isn’t quite for the birds because Hitchcock’s entertaining odd stories and uncontrollable emotions keep flying around. But other than Jones’ exceptional performance, the film is strangely uninspiring and surely won’t add to Hitchcock’s legacy.

Rating: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Add NBC’s “Animal Practice” to the list of early season cancellations. It joins CBS’ “Made in Jersey” as the first two new fall series to be canceled.

Inquiring minds want to know: When is HBO”s “Girls” coming back. The Lena Dunham series returns Jan. 13.

pergament@msn.com

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