Directed by Sacha Gervasi.
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, James D’Arcy, Ralph Macchio, Michael Stuhlbarg, Danny Huston and Toni Collette.
The story of Alfred Hitchcock’s struggles to make and distribute Psycho is told as the backdrop to a love story between Hitch and his wife Alma Reville.
Hitchcock is not a biopic of the Master of Suspense, but rather a look at the events post North by Northwest as Alfred Hitchcock worked on getting Psycho funded and filmed. The film really deals with the relationship between ‘Hitch’ and his wife Alma, and the struggles that they endure as a married couple in the limelight.
Unlike the majority of the Hitch’s films Hitchcock itself is not a brilliant film. In fact, parts of it left me wondering what the reason for their inclusion were, and in some cases I was left annoyed.
I am no Hitchcock buff; I do not know much about his personal life nor who he was as a man, only that he has made some incredible films which are some of my favourites. So I can’t make much of a judgement on how Hitch is himself portrayed with any historical accuracy, only on how I thought it worked in the film. To that end I was left appalled by the notion that Hitch had psychological problems of his own. The film has a subplot which sees Hitch hallucinate and dream of meetings with Ed Gein, the man on whom the book Psycho is loosely based. These to me felt distasteful and out of place, and served nothing to the story other that to lead the audience into believing that Hitch was as difficult to work with as some suggest because deep down he was a bit of a nutjob!
All artists have their thing. With Hitch they seem to suggest he is a pervert – from what I am aware he had obsessions with leading ladies – and an element of psychosis, and I did not care for it.
That aside, the film actually is made thoroughly enjoyable by its two lead actors – Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as his wife Alma Reville. The chemistry between these two is fantastic, and it is only these two which give the film the gravitas it strives for in their relationship. Mirren in particular is outstanding; an elegant, unwavering class act from beginning to end, much like her character as she supports Hitch through the difficult times with unwavering support and dedication.
Scarlett Johansson is charming, and not to mention beautiful, as Janet Leigh and James D’Arcy is uncanny as Anthony Perkins. Not only does he look like Perkins but he also acts like the shy and timid Norman Bates. It really is uncanny.
Is Hitchcock a fitting tribute to the ‘great and glorious genius Alfred Hitchcock’? No, not really. It portrays him in far too negative of a light at times for it to be. However there are some warm moments in there and the relationship between he and Alma tugs at the heart strings as a couple going through the struggles of a long marriage and his devotion to her – despite his obsession with his young female cast members – was plain to see. And how fitting that he dedicated his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award to her, of which we are reminded.
It was interesting to see – if it is accurate of course – what Hitchock went through to Psycho made by having to fund it himself and ‘tricking’ the MPAA in to giving the film its seal of approval for release. It really was quite an achivement, and as we know Psycho went on to change the landscape of cinema. To see it become such a success given the backlash and condemnation he received pre-screening – especially after Vertigo, which weighs heavily on him – was a delight as a film fan. Critics and censors be damned!
While I have shown my displeasure in regards to Hitch’s characterisation and the mental issues and volatile nature the film suggests, they do portray Hitch for the most part as a charming and sweet man with a great love of film. A scene in which Hitch recalls the joys of the risk taking nature of youth is particularly touching, so it isn’t all bad. It is actually a rather lovely look at him, with some sour notes you wish weren’t there.
Not great, but definitely enjoyable enough to see if you’re a fan of Hitchcock.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★