Monday, June 13, 2011

Marnie (1964)

Marnie is memorable but not marvelous....

- Marion Holland.... Peggy Nicholson.... Mary Taylor.... Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren) goes by many names. And she has to, you see, because compulsive thieves cannot afford to stay in the same place with the same name. Marnie's particular strategy for theft is getting hired by a company and then, after getting the lay of the land, cleaning out the company safe.

For this next job, however, Marnie has applied at the wrong place, as her boss Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) remembers her from a past victim that had previously employed her. Mark is too intrigued by Marnie's mystique and beauty to show her the door - so he hires her. Soon Mark falls for Marnie but discovers that her mystique and passion for crime masks a deeper damaged psyche....

I do not want to give too much of the plot away but I will say that, while the story is captivating and well-told for the most part with a quality that one would expect from Alfred Hitchock, Marnie is a flawed film with some of the latter plot twists seeming strange and much of the second half of the film feeling awkward and out of character for Mark and Marnie.

However, the main problem I have with the film is Tippi Hedren's portrayal of Marnie. Hedren was fantastic in the other Alfred Hitchcock film that she starred in prior to MarnieThe Birds in 1963, where she created a genuine character and, overall, just exuded a lot of personality. However, as Marnie Edgar in Marnie, Hedren is too bland and weak in general. The fact that Hedren is trying very hard to give a compelling performance in the film is quite easy to see - too easy to see, actually, which makes her failure to be compelling on screen all the more painful to watch. Hedren is especially unable to nail down some of the more emotional scenes in the film; any time in which Hedren is required to slip into an emotional attack is very unconvincing. In my view, because the film depends greatly on how effectively the Marnie character is portrayed, Marnie, as a whole film, suffers greatly as a result of Hedren's lackluster performance of that title character.

Hedren's misfire hurts the film the most because of the character's importance on the entire film; however, that does not mean that Hedren gives the worst performance of the film. That (dis)honor belongs to Louise Latham, who plays Marnie's mother. Latham is exasperatingly over-the-top throughout the movie – she could not stay grounded to Earth if she was snagged in a bear trap.

Luckily, other aspects of the film make up much for some of the weaker ones. Sean Connery is a clear acting standout, giving a very good performance as Mark Rutland. Connery, with his distinguishing Scottish accent, does not pass much for a Pennsylvanian publishing mogul but his presence, approach to the character, and handling of Hedren throughout the film adds quality and weight to each scene that he steps into. Diane Baker also gives a compelling supporting performance as Mark's suspicious sister-in-law and, together with Connery, almost evens out the overall cast.

However, the film's greatest strength is the style and focus of director Alfred Hitchcock. Marnie simply *looks* very good thanks to Hitchcock's intense style and Robert Burks' cinematography. Hitchcock, as usual, wields suspense like a conductor's baton and makes a sometimes malformed story work in the end.

Overall, Marnie has a lot to admire but also has a lot to criticize. While not one of Hitchcock's finest films, Marnie is a memorable, well-made, and often intriguing picture.

CBC Rating: 7/10

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