Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren) is a serial con artist, whose latest heist saw her steal almost $10,000 from the tax firm she became employed at under a fake name and a dark dye-job. She sends the money home to her single mother (Louise Latham), with whom Marnie has a relationship that could be described as difficult. Marnie’s next target is the Rutland company, managed by Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). Unfortunately for Marnie, Rutland is a client for her most recent score, and Mark recognises her as the “brunette with the legs.” Fortunately for Marnie, Mark is a zoology enthusiast, with a particular interest in criminal women, so he hires her anyway. She carries out the robbery as planned, but Mark catches up with her and offers an ultimatum; either he goes to the police, or she agrees to marry him.
Seeing as I’m dedicating an entire month to Hitchcock, it’s a pretty safe assumption that I’m a fan of him and his work. This is correct, well done. Alas, not all the Hitchcock movies I’ve seen before are winners, hence why Marnie was amongst the films I selected at the start of the year as being ones I wasn’t particularly looking forward to watching. You see, Marnie is not just a Hitchcock movie, it’s also on the 1001 Movies list, which is a mistake. Hitchcock has a record breaking 19 movies on The List, and if any director is going to have that many, I’ve got no problem with it being Hitchcock. I do, however, have an issue with some of the films selected. I’ve still yet to see Frenzy, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Shadow of a Doubt and Notorious (that’s tomorrow’s film), so I can’t judge them, but I don’t know why Spellbound, Sabotage or Blackmail are included over Dial M For Murder or Lifeboat. And, of course, there’s Marnie. For the most part, Marnie isn’t a bad film. It’s pretty clear Hitchcock is attempting to recreate a similar tone to Vertigo, by focussing on psychological issues, and a hero who is potentially suffering from mental issues – Marnie does not respond well to the colour red or flashes of lightning, and hates being touched by men – yet where Vertigo is interesting, beautifully shot and incredibly well acted, Marnie is at times dull, often features laughably staged “outdoor” scenes (Horse riding? No.) and, in the case of Hedren’s performance, is horribly acted. However, none of these factors are the worst elements, but we’ll get to that soon.It’s not all negativity. There’s a typically Hitchcockian tension-filled sequence in which Marnie pulls off the Rutland heist, which is beautifully framed with her stealing from the safe sharing the screen with the cleaner mopping the floor mere metres away, but obscured from view. How this scene plays out is actually quite brilliant, it’s just a great shame we don’t get any more scenes like this in the film.So, back to that worst point I mentioned earlier. Mark Rutland. Our hero. This is a man who sees a kleptomaniac with family issues and probably an appalling childhood and decides to do the decent thing and try to fix her. OK, no problem there. The problem comes when he falls in love with her (this is one of those unusual Hitchcock movies where the falling-in-love section doesn’t last a few hours, it actually takes a matter of days in this instance) and decides to marry her, despite her disinclination towards physical contact. The problem exacerbates when, after he promises to never touch her, he rapes her, during which she quite clearly tenses up and mentally goes off to some distant land where she isn’t being violated by her husband. The next day, Marnie is found floating face down in a swimming pool in a failed suicide attempt (that very much comes off as a cry for help, considering the many other more fatal methods she could have chosen from her surroundings). In the next scene, and for the rest of the film, none of these events are referred to again, and Mark remains the squeaky clean do-gooder protagonist for the rest of the story. Let me repeat. Our hero, Mark Rutland, played by James Frickin’ Bond, rapes his wife, she tries to kill herself because of it, and not one single person has any fucking problem with this situation. Well, I do, and it was something I just couldn’t get past for the rest of the film. Even the first time he kisses her is creepy, holding her in a close embrace to comfort her from a lightning strike, he kisses her forehead, then drags his lips down the side of her face to kiss her mouth. It could just be me, but I found that really rather odd.Mark’s dialogue is also altogether rather weird. Sometimes it’s blackly comic (“I’m fighting a powerful impulse to beat the hell out of you,”) other times it provides more exposition than is required (“It seems to be my misfortune to have fallen in love with a thief and a liar,”) and elsewhere vaguely misogynistic in a way that I’m not quite sure how it’s offensive, but I’m pretty sure it is (“You’re very sexy with your face clean.”). Who is this guy? Connery plays him like he’s trying to be Cary Grant but has never actually seen a Grant performance, he’s just read about them in books and heard a description from someone who almost met him once at a party. Hedren’s performance, on the other hand, is emotionally exhausting without her ever actually displaying anything close to an emotion on her face. Quite how she manages it I don’t know, but it’s something I never wish to experience again.Basically, don’t watch this film. I’ve now seen it twice and were it not part of a boxset of Hitchcock DVDs I own, I assure you I’d be getting rid of it soon.
Choose Life 4/10