Ugh. I don’t get the appeal of Alfred Hitchcock. He seems to hate women, loves improbable set-ups, and lets his movies trail on a half an hour longer than they need to. I cannot believe that Vertigo made it onto any “Best Of” lists. It is beautiful to look at, very colorful, but sweet holy Moses, it is a long, boring slog through ridiculous coincidences, plans that would never come together, and misogyny run rampant.
There are spoilers ahead. This movie is 59 years old, so if you haven’t seen it yet, well…save yourself. Otherwise, here goes.
James Stewart stars in this one. His female costars are half his age, so never let them tell you that that age disparities in casting much older men with young women in Hollywood is a new thing. He plays a police officer who had a near death experience, leading him to suffer from acrophobia–fear of heights. Not vertigo, which is the spinning feeling when you are not actually moving. But why worry about this detail when there are endless driving scenes to film?
Stewart’s character, Scottie, is recruited by an old college roommate to stalk his wife, who he believes is being possessed by the spirit of a long-dead woman. See? It’s ridiculous right off the bat. It might have been better to say, “Hey, my wife seems to be having dissociative episodes, and I am concerned about her safety. Can you help me out by trailing her to ensure she is okay?” Instead, he sets him up to follow his bride around San Francisco to determine if she is actually being possessed. Without ever having spoken to to Madeline, played by Kim Novak, Scottie falls in love and develops an obsession with her that goes way beyond what he is being paid for.
So much driving around. Driving, driving, driving. Peering through car windows. More driving. Attempted suicide. Rescue. Obsession. Actual suicide. Inquest. Acquittal. Obsession. More driving.
Then, Scottie happens across a brunette who looks nothing like Madeline, but he becomes obsessed with her. Let me just say this: too much eyebrow filler is not a good thing. Yikes. His obsession with this new lady, Judy, becomes absolutely psychotic. He forces her to dress like the dead Madeline. He has her change her makeup so she looks like her. He makes her dye her hair, and style it like his dead obsession. Eventually, we get to the actual freaking plot: Judy is Madeline. We shift perspective from Scottie to a voice-over from Judy as she confesses, in a letter she never sends, to being paid by the recently possessed Madeline’s husband to facilitate a murder that looked like a suicide.
Just ride that wave for a minute. It makes no sense, and she never gives him this information until the very end when he sees her wearing the dead woman’s necklace. Oops. It’s always something. Rule one of helping a rich man kill his wife: don’t get caught by the unfortunate witness to murder wearing the dead woman’s jewelry. It’ll get you every time. That’s just common sense.
More driving. Good thing gas was cheap because he puts on the miles. Returning to the scene of the murder/suicide, he basically forces Judy/Madeline to her actual death. It’s convoluted. It takes forever to get there. I think that the odds that he will get off for this crime are pretty small. After all, he made her change everything about herself so she could look like the woman whose unfortunate murder he witnessed/inadvertently participated in.
This movie gave me a headache. I do not like Alfred Hitchcock. We have four more movies to slog through this year that he made. I am dreading them. He hates women, and I feel like he thinks his audiences are the most idiotic people in the world. I want my time back. I want my future time back from when the four other movies get pulled from the jar. A movie being “pretty to look at” is simply not enough for me to put it in the win column.