Starring: Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery, Diane Baker
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Running Time: 130 mins
Marnie is an American film about a man who marries a woman who is a compulsive thief with a traumatic past, so he seeks to help her confront her fears and habits, no matter how difficult it may be.
Marnie isn’t often mentioned among Alfred Hitchcock’s best films, but there’s no real reason why. Though it’s perhaps a little slower than the Master of Suspense’s most exhilarating works, the film is filled with riveting mystery, intricate twists and gripping drama – as well as two dynamite lead performances from Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery.
One of the most interesting things about Marnie from the start is just how many parallels it draws with other Hitchcock films. Tippi Hedren plays a seemingly innocent woman who steals from her bosses and makes off with money (like Janet Leigh in Psycho), while changing her appearance as she goes from company to company (a little similar to Kim Novak in Vertigo).
Meanwhile, Hedren finds herself chained to the dashing, Cary Grant-esque leading man in Sean Connery, as their relationship develops despite the lurking presence of Hedren’s thieving past (much like Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief).
Does all this mean that Hitchcock ran out of new ideas by the time he made Marnie, reverting to a bunch of hackneyed tropes? Perhaps, but I see this film more as an amalgamation of everything the great director managed to do during his career, and although it wasn’t his last film, it’s arguably one of his most complete.
As I mentioned earlier, the execution could be a little better – the pacing is really inconsistent throughout here – but Marnie is still full of genuinely riveting character drama that makes for a deeply intricate story from beginning to end.
The opening stages are great to watch because of the uncertainty that Hitchcock plants in your head as to who has the upper hand. Is Hedren getting away with her crimes, or is Connery just humouring her before catching her red-handed? More than just the thrill of the steal, Marnie’s opening act is a brilliantly cagey affair, and effectively establishes two fantastic characters for later on.
As things progress, the movie takes on entirely different personas, from an action-packed thriller to a slow romantic drama, a psychological mystery and a shockingly raunchy and graphic film for its era. However, that proves that Marnie really is the movie which brings together all of Hitchcock’s different styles, ideas and themes, and does so in exhilarating fashion.
Many people think of Hitchcock as a master of thrills and suspense, but there’s a lot more below the surface, with many of Hitchcock’s recurring themes focusing on deranged and by some measures perverted views on the modern world. Marnie is the first of his films which really starts to showcase that on the surface, in part thanks to changing attitudes in society at the time as well as the director’s own boldness to go further with his stories.
With that in mind, the depth at play in this story is enormously impressive, and as events begin to unfold in increasingly complex fashion, Marnie just becomes more and more enthralling to watch. Building effectively with brilliantly intricate drama and tension to a slam-dunk finale, the movie is a hugely entertaining watch throughout, and deserving of a place among Hitchcock’s best films of all.
Overall, I loved Marnie. As I said, it’s not Hitchcock’s most intense or fast-paced film, but it’s still a thrilling, mysterious and engrossing amalgamation of all of the director’s classic styles and ideas. Complete with two great performances from Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery, as well as riveting character depth throughout, Marnie is an undeniably gripping watch, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.