Hitchcock (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
‘Hitchcock’ is the story of the great director, his marriage, his relationships with his starring actresses and the making of his most easily remembered film, ‘Psycho’. Combining film history, rumor, folklore, fiction and speculation, Sacha Gervasi directs John J. McLaughlin’s adaptation of a book by Stephen Rebello. We will never know how much of this is true, but it probably does not matter. This is a generally enjoyable production with some foibles of its own. Like an episode of Hitchcock’s TV show, ‘Hitchcock’ is entertaining but not great art.
Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10.
‘Hitchcock’ is about so much on and off the set of ‘Psycho’ that it really is not about a lot of anything but Hitchcock himself. It is mostly about Alfred Hitchcock’s double-edged relationship with Alma Reville, Hitchcock’s wife, who seems to have had at least half of the perceptiveness of the couple – probably more than half. When the film is working on all cylinders, it is reminiscent of Topsy-Turvy’s account of Gilbert and Sullivan creating ‘The Mikado’. Too often, it is more like Ed Wood’s compilation of fan magazine stories about its title director.
‘Hitchcock’ takes Hitch, as he is called (played by Anthony Hopkins), from his triumph with ‘North By Northwest’, telling the story of how he found his next property in Robert Bloch’s novel ‘Psycho’. He finds he has to fund the production with his own money. If the movie fails he will lose the lovely house he shares with Alma (Helen Mirren).
A large ensemble of familiar actors take parts irrespective of whether they actually resemble their originals. It should be noted that Hopkins is present because he is a darn good actor and not because the makeup staff could do anything at all effective to make him look like Alfred Hitchcock. Anthony Hopkins just looks like a bald, fat Anthony Hopkins finding it impossible to fade into the character he plays. Scarlett Johansson will never be mistaken for Janet Leigh. The one and only exception and. perhaps one that should have been exploited more, is that James D’Arcy appears to naturally resemble Anthony Perkins.
Too much is happening in too many directions to say what the story is. Janet Leigh is able to hold her own and not conflict too much with Hitchcock, which she explains is because she did ‘Touch Of Evil’ with the even more impossible Orson Welles. Meanwhile, Hitchcock is having fantasy conversations with Ed Gein, the real-life serial killer who inspired two different horror series, the ‘Psycho’ films and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ films, as well as the character of Jame Gumb in ‘The Silence Of The Lambs’. The scattershot insults to Hitchcock also imply that Hitchcock himself used the peephole in ‘Psycho’ for much the same reason that Norman Bates did in the movie. Hitchcock and his attractive leading ladies seem to have the same relationship where each feels persecuted by the other.
Alma is trying to be supportive of her husband and at the same time has a relation – platonic and professional, she hopes – with Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), the screenwriter of Hitchcock’s ‘Stage Fright’ and ‘Strangers On A Train’. Cook hopes to write another screenplay he can peddle, perhaps to Hitchcock. But Alma does not have the name recognition with the viewer that Hitchcock had, so there is no need to tarnish her reputation the way Hitchcock’s is in this film.
Today, there is still much controversy about just who Alfred Hitchcock was and 54 years later, it is too late to verify how much of this film’s picture of him is true. Gervasy gives us a picture of a genius who is nonetheless full of personal demons and both obsessed by and sadistic toward beautiful women. More than half a century after these events, Hitchcock has become legend and dead legends get no opportunity to defend themselves. I rate ‘Hitchcock’ a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper