Movie Review – Hitchcock (2012)

Hitchcock, 2012.

Directed by Sacha Gervasi.
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, James D’Arcy, Michael Stuhlbarg, Ralph Macchio, Danny Huston and Toni Collette.

Hitchcock movie poster

SYNOPSIS:

A love story between legendary British director (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) during the making of Hitchcock’s terrifying 1960 classic Psycho.

Hitchcock Anthony Hopkins


Hitchcock is based on Stephen Rebello‘s book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, but if you are looking forward to watching this film simply because you want a behind the scenes insight into how the classic 1960s horror film was made, you are in for a pleasant surprise. This film delivers so much more than just an insight into the psyche of the iconic director whilst creating his most successful film; it also tackles Hitchcock’s intricate relationship with his wife and (not always credited) writing partner Alma, played superbly by Helen Mirren (The Queen). 

The film starts with Hitchcock – played by a nearly unrecognisable Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of The Lambs) kitted out with a fat suit and facial prosthetics – riding high from the success of North by Northwest. In the midst of all the plaudits, the director chooses to focus on critics who suggest he is too old and should take a step back and allow a new generation to step into the limelight. This is highlighted by a key scene at the beginning of the film where a reporter shouts “You’re the most famous director in the history of the medium, but you’re 60 years old, shouldn’t you just quit while you’re ahead”. Thus begins his obsession to find a new, edgy film to develop that will ultimately prove his critics wrong. This obsession quite aptly draws him to the book Psycho by Robert Bloch and based on the life a notorious serial killer Ed Gein, and the journey begins to bring this book to life as his next feature film. 

However Hitch, as he like to be known – “Just Hitch, hold the cock” he quite often quips to new acquaintances – has a problem. All of the elements to this story that attract him, Gein’s obsession with his mother, serial murders and necrophilia are the exact things that makes everyone around him think he is making a huge mistake, including his agent, wife and the boss of Paramount Studio. This ultimately results in the studio only allowing the film to be made if Hitch waives his director’s fee, finances the film himself (to the tune of $800,000) and in return, he would receive 40 percent of the profits. So throwing caution to the wind, with the eventual support of his wife Alma, together they risk their comfortable lifestyle and savings on the success of Psycho.

Director Sasha Gervasi (Anvil! The Story of Anvil) and screenwriter John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan) really bring this film to life in the unique way they approached Hitch’s obsession in making Psycho and took the unusual route of creating a surreal relationship between Hitch and the serial killer Ed Gein, in which they frequently talk to each other and Gein even offers Hitch counselling in various area of his life. Whilst this approach seems rather fanciful and over the top, it works extremely well and achieves the goal of conveying the director as a man on the edge, obsessive and desperate for Psycho to be a success. 

Hopkins’ portrayal of the iconic director is very believable and he delivers a solid performance which captures Hitch’s charm and humour as well as subtly demonstrating his insecurities over his age and weight alongside portraying his darker side.

The theme of age, youth and beauty is apparent throughout the entire film, with Alma’s incessant monitoring of Hitchcock’s diet, and the director’s lust for his beautiful leading ladies, as Hitch sits in his office studying their headshots as if he’s flicking through the pages of a Playboy magazine. The film also looks at Hitch’s jealousy (fuelled by his new found counsellor Ed Gein) over the relationship between his wife Alma and the younger more attractive writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston).  This really adds to the narrative that Gervasi and McLaughlin are trying to create in showing Hitch as a man spinning into hysteria under the pressure of successfully bringing Psycho to life. 

Helen Mirren delivers a marvelous performance as Hitch’s frustrated long serving wife and writing/editing partner, who is tired of his fantasy romances with his leading ladies and constantly being in his shadow even though she is a key ingredient in his success over the years.  This ultimately leads to her forming a relationship with Whitfield Cook to develop a screenplay in the midst of her husband directing Psycho. This development further adds to the tension and disquiet between the married couple, which is alluded to throughout the film. Overall the dynamic between Mirren and Hopkins is electric and together they create some very memorable scenes and their relationship is one of the reasons this film is so compelling.

Hitchcock captures the glamour and excitement of Hollywood with great vivacity and sparkle when it focuses on the process of making the hit film Psycho; this is helped by the fantastic performances from supporting cast.  There are some small but noteworthy performances from James D’Arcy (Secret Diary of a Call Girl) who has an uncanny resemblance to his character Anthony Perkins, and he is superb as the nervous and quirky young actor. Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation) plays Janet Leigh with just the right amount of allure and authenticity.

Hitchcock is a fresh, entertaining and unique look at an iconic director that not only examines the man himself, but explores his relationships, motivations and inspirations during a very crucial period in his life. Hitchcock is not your average biopic but more of an imaginary insight into the mind of one of the most successful horror directors of all time whilst creating arguably his most cherished masterpiece. 

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★

Jeffrey Aidoo

  • http://twitter.com/pandadeer Martin

    Great review, Jeffrey