Heads Up: The Girl

The trouble with Alfred: genius, visionary ... creep

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? A BBC/HBO one-off drama about the relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren, and the film-maker's growing obsession with, and sinister attempts to seduce, the actress.

Elevator pitch Master of distress: how Hitchcock manipulated more than just the movie camera…

Prime movers It was written by Gwyneth Hughes (The Mystery of Edwin Drood; Miss Austen Regrets), in part inspired by Donald Spoto's book, Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and his Leading Ladies; the author also worked as a consultant. It's directed by Julian Jarrold, the man behind Appropriate Adult and another Austen biopic, Becoming Jane.

The stars Sienna Miller plays Tippi, while Toby Jones is the master of suspense. Top support, too: Imelda Staunton is Hitchcock's wife, Alma, while Penelope Wilton is his assistant Peggy Robertson.

The early buzz It's already been shown in the States, to praise – with caveats. In The Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney wrote, "Jones gives an astute and technically precise performance… Psychologically, the script sells him short. The sexual dynamic and the conflicted urges of worship and ownership are examined in prosaically literal and superficial ways." Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times suggested, "the trouble with The Girl is that it tries to psychoanalyze Hitchcock but fails by trying to know the man too much". Richard Brody in The New Yorker wrote that it's "a fairly mediocre film that tosses out a pile of incidents with a superficial briskness. But: What incidents! What characters! And even — what impersonations!"

Insider knowledge Hedren, now in her eighties, spoke to both Hughes and Miller before filming, advising the latter to make sure she portrayed her as a strong woman, who would not give in to the director's sexual demands.

It's great that… the cast look remarkably convincing, given they're aping such famous figures – Miller pulls off the Hitchcock icy blonde to perfection, while critics have praised Jones's Hitch-channelling too.

It's a shame that… the film has, perhaps inevitably, come under attack for its portrayal of the great director and British hero as a perverted creep.

Hit potential Miller will be a draw, and film buffs won't be able to resist. But it probably depends what it's up against in the Christmas schedules.

The details The Girl will air on BBC2 later this month.