Marnie (1964) serves as an off-balance miss from Alfred Hitchock

Marnie, an off-balanced Hitchock thriller all reliant on the twist, is one of the few films he ever made that I didn’t find palatable. It’s a combination of the Jay Presson Allen screenplay forcing weird character traits and phobias that move the plot along and furthermore, Tippi Hedren’s (Marnie) exploding neuroticism actively took me out of the story. Thankfully, Marnie has some charm, as Sean Connery (Mark) adds bravado, but Marnie’s past dominates the narrative in a way that felt cheap. 

I don’t want to paint Hedren’s performance as bad, but more so that Hitchock wanted her to play the character as increasing unstable. It leads to the character feeling artificial. The premise and final twist are the perfect start and finish but the middle portion of Marnie is flat-out lacking drama with how disconnected Marnie is in each interaction.

As for Hitchock’s craft, it’s well shot and composed. DP Robert Burks creates the aura of isolation through the Marnie’s placement in shot compositions and the contrast of lighting choices. The editing felt contrived, layering in too many repetitive story beats into Marnie’s arc. 

The main issue of the film simply comes down to Marnie. I found her unengaging and basic. Her backstory makes up for lackluster plot, but not enough to overlook the issues with the writing and direction. Hedren plays the trauma victim well, but her lack or chemistry with Connery makes the latter half of the film almost uncomfortable. It’s not a big miss from Hitchock. Tonally speaking, it’s similiar to many of the films he made during the mid-1960s, but his buildup to the twist isn’t close to as compelling of his other films. A victim of his own competence.


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