Sacha Gervasi’s ‘Hitchcock’ is a fun, amusing film for fans of “The Master of Suspense” director Alfred Hitchcock and those familiar with his movie ‘Psycho’ in particular. It’s an enjoyable experience because we are provided so much of the movie we revere and the man we already want to know more of. That in itself makes it a success. Add memorable performances by Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and James D’Arcy, some pleasing humor and enlightening facts, and you have yourself a movie worth paying to see. Now the problem would be if you never saw ‘Psycho’ and could care less about Hitchcock.
Contrary to what the title says, ‘Hitchcock’ is actually a complex love story, not a biopic of the life of director Alfred Hitchcock. Lurking behind Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), cinema’s horror icon known for orchestrating some of the most intense experiences of menace and intrigue audiences have ever seen, was a hidden side: his creatively and explosive romance with his supportive wife and filmmaking collaborator, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) – many say the secret to his success. Acting as a backdrop to the Hitchcock’s love life is the making of the hair-raising 1960 thriller, ‘Psycho,’ which would become the director’s most controversial and legendary film. When the tumultuous, against-the-odds production was over, nothing about movies would ever be the same – but few realized that it took two to pull it off. The story is rife with surprises, comic ironies and dark twists in the Hitchockian tradition. But at the heart of the film lies not only the obsessions and fears of two people but the distinctively tenacious love that drove Hitchcock’s art behind the curtain.
Cinematically, Gervasi seeps the film with Hitchcockian clichés and quirks that serve as winks to fans of Hitchcock, his films and his television show. For example, the opening of the film has Hopkins giving an introduction to the movie as if it was an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Very clever and cool. The whole movie is sprinkled with moments like this. Gervasi also manages to provide us with an insightful look at how difficult it was to make ‘Psycho,’ both financially and marketing-wise. Furthermore, the MPAA wouldn’t allow it a release at first, and when it did, the editing wasn’t up to par, in particular, the shower scene. Go figure.
The script by John J. McLaughlin is tight and moves quickly, but the choice of a love story, based on the book by Stephen Rebello “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” isn’t what I necessarily wanted to see. As much as Alma was a part of his life, she wasn’t in ours, the public. More interesting are the moments that take place on the set and how the film was made. Alas, Hollywood always feels we need a love story, but I was fine without one.
The acting is superb. Anthony Hopkins nailed Hitchcock as we remember him, even if he might have been a bit cartoonish with him at times. Helen Mirren is wonderful and commands the screen as she usually does, but I thoroughly enjoyed James D’Arcy performance of actor Anthony Perkins, Norman Bates himself . Not only did he look like him, he embodied his essence. One blunder that was evident, but fortunately didn’t become a detriment to the film was the miscast of Scarlett Johansson’s as Janet Leigh. She was Scarlett Johansson trying to act like someone else. The true indication of a great actor is when they can make you forget the star they are in the public eye and immerse you in the character they’re inhabiting. This was not the case for Johansson and not sure if I have ever really seen her do that in her young career.
Despite the aforementioned minor oversight, ‘Hitchcock’ is a must see movie for anyone curious in having a front row seat to the movie making process of Alfred Hitchcock, his idiosyncrasies and the type of husband he was. If none of this tickles your fancy, your best advised to invest your time and money in something more traditional and commercial.