The Girl - DVD Review

'so unremitting is Jarrold in his critique of the director's character that this occasionally feels like an assassination'

Due to hit television screens as part of BBC2's output on Boxing Day, you'd be forgiven for thinking The Girl would be quite tame, a lazy 'making of' dramatisation looking behind-the-scenes on Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. On the contrary.

Sporting a 15-certificate, Julian Jarrold's Drama is full of jagged edges and uncomfortable moments. The whole thing, in fact, from the moment Toby Jones' Hitchcock steps onto screen, is an exercise in making your skin creep and crawl. The Girl isn't so much a Drama as it is close to a domestic Horror, a portrayal of Hitchcock's unrelenting abuse of his new star Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller).

That very fact, in many ways, is commendable. Hitchcock's dark side, formerly quite well hidden behind the quality of his films, seems to have come to fore more in recent years. In a way, this feels like the zenith of that, so unremitting is Jarrold in his critique of the director's character that this occasionally feels like an assassination.

That presents the film with something of a problem. Whilst Hitchcock, if the facts presented here are true, deserves every criticism thrown at him, assassinations make for very bleak watches indeed. The abuse of Hedren at his hands is troubling to say the least and at times sickening, but it is also unrelenting for the viewer. Jarrold struggles to get behind Hitchcock's mask of abuse and begin to theorise on its origins, settling instead for drunken conversations with Jim (Carl Beukes), which only hint at his psyche.

Hedren, meanwhile, gets much more of an insight, with Jarrold prying behind the reasons she stayed on for a second film (Marnie) and revealing a character of depth and worth. No small amount of this is down to Miller, an actress who occasionally gets an unfair press but who here provides a realistic portrayal on several levels. The scene of Hedren learning 'how to act' is perfectly judged, subtle vocal inflections during a scene reading of the finches element of The Birds revealing an actress in control of a complex meta-role.

Jones equally puts in a dynamic impersonation of Hitchcock, spreading the aforementioned discomfort throughout. The portrayal though, and the depiction by Jarrold, is unsympathetic and harsh. The final scene seems to go for something like heartbreak, which the film hasn't earned - we can surely only feel disgust for Hitch - and which therefore falls flat.

It echoes the main problem with the film, and spears why The Girl feels a little cold: it is surrounded by romance but, like Hitch, can never fully attain and embrace it. Old Hollywood glamour, true love, sexual fulfilment; they're all here but all absent, leaving the film itself a little jilted.

The Girl is on BBC2 at 9.00pm on Boxing Day and will then be released on DVD in the UK on 7th January 2013.

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