I’m going to be real with you; Marnie disappointed me. When I found out about it, I saw that Hitchcock directed Sean Connery, well I had to see it. I’m still glad I saw it so now I know what it is, but if I had actually had to pay money for it I probably wouldn’t feel that way. Adding to that frustration is that I really think this could have been a much better movie, maybe even a great one.
Marnie (Tippi Hedron) is a thief (or klepto, whichever you want to go with). She has just stolen money from her employer and is bringing it to her mother (Louise Latham). She dies her hair to change her appearance, and swaps out her ID for another one from her stash. She gets to her mother’s house and sees red flowers that her mother has and freaks out. She changes them at once for white flowers. This happens throughout the film whenever Marnie sees the color red, and Hitchcock has a flash of red come across the screen every time for emphasis.
Her mother is babysitting a girl named Jessie, and she seems to have more love for her than she does for Marnie. Her mother won’t admit it, but both Jessie and Marnie can tell this is true, and Jessie rubs in it her face. There is a lot of talk about being “decent,” in this scene, but the exact nature of the decency is not explicitly told. Marnie gets the impression that her mother disapproves of her, and she doesn’t even know that Marnie is a thief. It is obvious that Marnie really wants her mother’s approval and her mother, for whatever reason, won’t give it to her.
After this, Marnie changes her hair again (I honestly could not keep track of how many times this happened) and gets a new job under a new name, which intentions to rob this place as well. She seems to be getting away with it, until the boss Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) catches her. Of course, because this is a movie, he falls in love with her. She “likes” him, but admits she does not love him. In fact, she seems unable to love any man and doesn’t want anybody to “handle” her. This doesn’t stop Mark however, who blackmails her into marrying him. He threatens to expose her previous thefts, which he has since investigated and knows everything about. Mark marries her because he wants to save her from everything she’s scared of (which is a lot of stuff: lightning, the color red, men, sex, going to jail…), and also so he can figure out why she is the way she is. He calls that love, but I’m not sure if I agree.
Most of the movie is Marnie freaking out over various things, and then Mark going into psychoanalysis mode to figure it out. By the end, everything is tied up in a nice little bow and there is no ambiguity whatsoever. Until then, and after really, you can get into a ton of femininist criticism which is good if that’s what you’re in to. The way Mark treats Marnie, while still meaning to help her, is pretty degrading. He compares her to animals repeatedly, and he cannot imagine her simply not wanting to have sex with him. He blackmails her into marrying him, and can’t accept that? Come on now. He immediately jumps to psychological issues, and the annoying thing about this is that he turns out to be right.
While there is plenty to analyze in this film, the film did not keep me interested enough to want to. Most of this was due to Tippi Hedron’s acting, which I did not care for. I don’t want to be mean and come out and say that she sucked, but I’m going to anyway. She sucked. Her facial expressions were almost nonexistent, and the same goes for any diversity in her line deliveries. Other than the pitch of her voice, all of her lines were just flat and unemotional. I think it was mainly her acting, or lack thereof, that led me to actually like Mark more than I should have. Sean Connery wasn’t fantastic in this film, he was fine but not great. That said, he was about a bazillion times better than Tippi Hedron. I sympathized with him way more than I should have given all of the crap his character was pulling. I just felt bad that he had to deal with that chick.
I will say that Tippi Hedron had a couple good scenes. The best was one of her scenes with Mark where she mocks him for his psychoanalytic ways. “You Freud, me Jane?” She actually had some spirit in her voice and got me rooting for her at that point. She expressed a great contempt of Mark that she should have made of feel for the whole film. It didn’t last long though unfortunately. The rest of the scenes I enjoyed were in the “it’s so bad it’s good category,” but this one was actually good.
One good thing came out of watching Marnie, though. Marnie marks the first time in all of my Hitchcock viewing (11 films now) that I organically noticed his cameo. Nobody pointed it out to me, I didn’t look it up ahead of time, I just saw it. It was wonderful. SPOILER ALERT he was walking out of a door in the beginning, probably telling the audience that’s what they should have done. I actually have no idea if Hitchcock liked this film or not, but in my opinion it is not up to his usual standards. The tension and the suspense that Hitch is so known for creating is absent in Marnie, and the acting is not enough to make up for it (or it could be what was stopping it in the first place). I wasn’t bored, but I definitely wasn’t riveted either. I did have some knowledge of the plot beforehand, but that shouldn’t matter. The second time I watched Vertigo, for example, was just as intense as the first. Good movies can stand up to this sort of thing.
Marnie is something I would normally devour. I would gasp and analyze the whole way through and love every minute of it. The acting really held it back, and also the absence of The Master of Suspense’s… suspense. After while, it just became a film I wanted to get through for the sake of getting through it, not because I was invested very much in what was going on. If you like this film, more power to ya. I almost wished I had enjoyed it more, Alfred Hitchcock and Sean Connery, what a combination. Why did they have to invite Hedron too?
“I always thought a girl’s best friend was her mother!”
No joke. This was an actual line, and I’m pretty sure no one thinks that.
Long story short: 2/4 stars