bill bodkin looks at the latest hbo film…
Poor Toby Jones.
He’s probably one of the finest character actors in the movies today, but every time it seems he’s got a lead role, there’s another film, that’s exactly the same.
In 2006, he received critical acclaim for his role as Truman Capote in Infamous — however it was Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of the author in the film Capote, that received the great praise and Hoffman was bestowed with the Oscar for Best Actor.
Now, in The Girl, Jones has been cast as iconic director Alfred Hitchock — only a few weeks prior to the big screen biography of the master of suspense with the legendary Anthony Hopkins assuming the role.
However, upon further examination, this time around Jones’ performance shouldn’t be overshadowed, because unlike his turn in Infamous, which was in actual competition with Capote at the movies, The Girl has premiered on HBO while Hitchock will be in the movies. So, this time around, people can dedicate time to both films and not have to decide which film to see at the local cineplex.
And this is definitely a good thing because Jones’ performance in The Girl is absolutely marvelous. His performance feels like you’re watching real archival footage of the famed director. And yet there’s this sense of obsession, wonder, sadness and fury that Jones is able to breath into his portrayal of “Hitch.” His take on Hitchcock is one of an artist who’s taken a piece of raw material and turned it into his own masterpiece…and then becomes disastrously obsessed with it.
Watching Hithcock slowly try and turn the ingenue Tippi Hedren into his ideal of what a woman should be is sometimes frightening. This is brilliant illustrated in the film by taking one of the classic scenes from Hitchcock’s The Birds — where Hedrin is attacked in the attic by a flock of birds and showing the audience how the scene took over an excessive amount of time to film and how much it physically took out of Hedrin. Hitchcock’s ice cold, vindictive stare, his face emotionless, is as fearsome as Norman Bates pulling back the shower curtain on Janet Leigh.
As “the girl” Sienna Miller is surprisingly wonderful as Tippi Hedrin — delivering probably the best performance of her career. The film wants to portray Hedrin as a woman who is tortured by Hitchock’s obsession but also uses the torture to summon the courage to battle on and ultimately become her own woman. Miller executes this perfectly — playing the victim, the ingenue and the fighter, sometimes all in the same scene.
The leads in The Girl are terrific, however the film itself lacks a bit. There are some very interesting shots, a nice nod to Hitchock, but sometimes the montages look a little like they were ripped from a low budget Hallmark Channel Movie, it’s jarring and out of left field. Also, the second half of the movie seems a little rushed. The climax, which lacks a little bite, comes in rather quickly and is wrapped up just as fast. After almost 90 minutes of set-up, our pay-off is two minutes of dialogue…bit of a let-down.
Overall, The Girl is a solid film. It’s a showcase for two tremendous performances and these performances are the film. When The Girl relies on Jones and Miller to carry the film through their performances, especially when they’re onscreen together, the movie really hums. However when the two are separated it really slows down and becomes uninteresting or is underdeveloped. But when these two get together — it’s magic, almost like if you’re a fly on the wall that happened to be around when the actual events were happening.