Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Hitchcock vs. The Girl, two films about The Master of Suspense and the making of two of his horror classics, Psycho and The Birds.
The trailer for Hitchcock is as straightforward as the title—the film is about Alfred Hitchcock making his suspense classic Psycho. Apparently, back in the day, Paramount wanted to pass on making a violent, sexualized murder mystery—so, Hitchcock financed the film himself... because he was kind of a big deal, and he could do that. From the trailer, we can also assume the movie follows a parallel story with his wife Alma, a filmmaker in her own right, trying to get her voice heard by her husband and his peers. Despite the fact that Psycho is a terrifying thriller, Hitchcock looks like it's filled with sarcastic humor and is a rather bright look at the darkness within Alfred Hitchcock's work.
The Girl has been hyped as Sienna Miller's big moment to break out and show her acting skills (Factory Girl notwithstanding). She's playing Tippi Hedren, the star of Hitchcock's film The Birds—which he called "possibly the most terrifying film I've made." The trailer also stars a twisted little Toby Jones playing a more sadistic, much less delightful Hitchcock. In the trailer, Tippi trys to do everything to please Alfred; there are birds; Tippi gets scratches on her face; Hitchcock gets creepy; more birds; more creepiness; the end. This trailer is a little bit more abstract, whereas the Hitchcock trailer gets straight to the goods.
Based on the trailers, the directors of these films had starkly different ideas of who Hitchcock really was. Anthony Hopkins' Hitchcock is a big, boisterous, powerful, sometimes downright jovial man. Toby Jones' Hitchcock is more cloying in his speech—and sadistic and obsessive in his actions. From the trailers, the audience gets the notion that Hopkins plays the hero, while Jones plays the villain... even though they're playing the same man. Jones is a well-respected actor, with parts in all types of films, from political dramas W. and Tinker Tailor Solider Spy to fantasy hits like Harry Potter and Snow White and the Huntsman. However, it's hard to upstage the one and only Anthony Hopkins—he's been in the biz a bit longer than Jones. And considering that his most famous roles is one of the most horrifying characters in film—Hannibal Lecter (check out Hopkins talking about Silence of the Lambs in this interview we did with him back in 1992)—Hopkins should feel right at home playing this mastermind of suspense thrillers.
When you hear there's going to be a film about Alfred Hitchcock making Psycho, you might expect it to be somewhat chilling or suspenseful. However, this trailer seems to suggest only a few dark moments. The plot seems interesting, but not especially scary—some are even pegging it as a revelation of the little-told love story between Alfred and Alma Hitchcock. We're predicting a movie that will keep you entertained, but it isn't going to freak you out in the way that a Hitchcock film would. Conversely, The Girl gets right down to making your skin crawl—and that's just the trailer! Toby Jones is a great character actor, and born in another time, he probably could have been cast in a number of Hitchcock's films. The Girl might make the viewer a little bit on edge and uncomfortable, but isn't that what Hitchcock was all about?
Advantage: The Girl
Hitchcock is stacked with a supporting cast, headed by Academy Award winner Helen Mirren as Alma Hitchcock, Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, and James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins, the male lead in Psycho. The actors have just the right amount of star power and talent to make this a solid cast. The Girl, on the other hand, feels like more of a vehicle for Sienna Miller to climb out of that paparazzi hole she's in and find her way to some semblance of being taken seriously as an actor. The small supporting cast for The Girl isn't seen much in the trailer, but it consists of Imelda Staunton (Another Year) as Hitchcock's wife, Carl Beukes, and Downton Abbey's Penelope Wilton. Though these are fantastic actors, The Girl doesn't feels like a true ensemble cast the way Hitchcock does.
Picture in Picture
Both of these movies are centered around the making of Hitchcock's films Psycho and The Birds. Which film is the better suited to be transported to the present-day screen? Psycho was made in 1960 and is about a secretary who has embezzled money from her boss and then checks into a motel on a dark road; someone in that motel ends up being a murderer, hence the iconic stabbing-in-the-shower scene. A good, old-fashioned murder mystery ensues. Who wouldn't want to see the behind-the-scenes happenings of that movie?
The Birds, made in 1963, is one of those movies that doesn't sound scary (a group of disoriented, crazy birds, attack a town and try to kill people... what?!). But, in true Hitchcock fashion, fear lies in the unknown—anything that comes out of nowhere to stalk and terrorize you is going to be pretty scary. Based on The Girl trailer, the filming of The Birds looked a little more frightening and tense. But, at the end of the day, both are great films and hallmarks in Hitchcock's career. It's really a matter of preference.
HBO Films is producing The Girl, and they usually put out great films—Game Change, Grey Gardens—so we're sure The Girl will be watchable and people will tune in. What we're not completely sure about is whether Sienna Miller can carry the film. We love to root for an indie production, but sometimes you just have to trust that these big-production, big-stars, big-hype movies can still have heart and be entertaining. Hitchcock looks like it'll be a historical drama mixed with a romantic comedy, and Hopkins and Mirren together intrigue us enough to pull us in.
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