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The Girl

Year: 2012
Production Co: Wall to Wall Media
Studio: HBO
Director: Julian Jarrold
Writer: Gwyneth Hughes/Donald Spoto
Cast: Toby Jones, Sienna Miller, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton

In the grand tradition of Armageddon & Deep Impact, Infamous (another also-ran starring Toby Jones) & Capote and The Prestige & The Illusionist comes the second Alfred Hitchcock project that arrived the same year as Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren in Hitchcock.

Unlike most copycat second place getters (an unfair attribution, I realise – these things take so long to get off the ground it's pot luck who plays to the public first and it's possible neither knew the other one existed), this is just as good as the big screen story of how Psycho came to being that played in cinemas mere months before.

This time the film looks at the story of The Birds. Jones plays Hitch as a more devilish figure, classy but with the sense of humour of a sniggering schoolboy with his frequent bawdy limericks, and given to childlike bouts of anger where anybody who happens to be there bears the brunt of them.

It's even more obvious according to this script that Hitch had a thing for blonde starlets and fell in love with every one. He actually comes onto and professes love for Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller) here, where it was only hinted at in Hitchcock.

It's also more of a focus here that Hitchcock is made to appear a profoundly unhappy man. Despite his acclaim, he knew Alma was the only one who'd put up with him and he knew that without power or money he'd just be a portly British man these gorgeous screen goddesses wouldn't look twice at.

It makes Jones' Hitchcock a more tragic figure than Hopkins', and The Girl is a slightly deeper film that wants to show you who the script thinks Hitchcock was – the Hopkins/Mirren version was much more about moviemaking.

Something both films agree on however is that he apparently had an inveterate hatred of beautiful women, possibly because he inherently knows they're all out of his league and that the only vengeance he can exact is using his power as a director to ruin their careers.

He meets his match in former model and single mother Hedren, who just wants to work and raise her daughter and has no real interest in the glitz and politics of Hollywood. When it's clear she won't fall under whatever romantic spell he's trying to cast with all his tricks, he takes his revenge by making The Birds shoot hell on Earth.

In the scene where Tippi, as Melanie Daniels, enters the upstairs room of the house near the end of the film and is attacked by the gathered flock, Hitchcock doesn't bother to tell her that they're replacing the stuffed birds with real ones, and he makes her do so many takes she finally emerges as cut and bruised as a boxer.

Like all true stories there's undoubtedly as many liberties taken for the purposes of dramatic tension here as there was in Hitchcock, but it's fun to imagine the genius filmmaker was this disagreeable in real life.

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