This is funny — and kind of weird.
I watched the film Hitchcock on pay per view the other day: it’s the story of the making of Psycho based on the fascinating 1990 non-fiction book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello, which I read and enjoyed many years ago. The movie? It’s not bad. Its take on the Hitchcock marriage is rigged and sentimentalized. But the cast is amazing — Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Toni Collette — and the glimpses of the true story that survive are still very interesting. It’s a small, satisfying entertainment about the movie biz.
However… The movie is about ten times better than last year’s unfortunate HBO production The Girl which starred Toby Jones as the Master of Suspense, and told Tippi Hedren’s version of their relationship during the making of The Birds. Hedren claims Hitchcock sexually harassed her, mistreated her and ultimately destroyed her career — although my memory is that Hedren was an awful actress, which may have also had something to do with it.
So here’s the weird part. What makes the picture Hitchcock relatively good is that it treats Hitch as a human being with problems, some of which clearly relate to sex. What makes The Girl so bad is that it treats Hitchcock as a series of sexual symptoms and behaviors — as if once you get at a person’s sexuality, you really know something important and revealing about him (which is, for the most part, untrue). Hitchcock is uplifted by a performance by the truly great Hopkins, who imitates the director but also humanizes him. The talented Toby Jones does a fine job of recreating the director in The Girl but just doesn’t have much to work with. Obviously it’s unfortunate for him to have gotten caught in the lesser of two coincidentally simultaneous biopics.
But wait!!! Compare 2005′s Capote, a very good movie in which the truly great Philip Seymour Hoffman brilliantly recreates and humanizes the author Truman Capote in a film that treats Capote as a troubled human being, who also happens to be gay. That film came out virtually at the same time as Infamous, a brutally bad piece of dreck which treats Capote as a gay gay person who’s very gay and does gay things — as if once you get at a person’s sexuality, you really know something important and revealing about him. And guess who gets stuck with the impossible task of elevating the Infamous material: poor Toby Jones, who does a fine job, but really doesn’t stand a chance. Obviously it’s unfortunate for him to have gotten caught in the lesser of two coincidentally simultaneous biopics.
So since these things tend to happen in threes, here’s the question: what rotund, more or less bald genius is due for two more simultaneous bio-pics, one of which stinks because it over-emphasizes its subject’s sexuality… and is Jones available?