Hitchcock

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Directed by: Sacha Gervasi
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Colette
Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins
Rating: PG-13
Release Date: December 7, 2012

PLOT: Famous filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock attempts to make the film Psycho in 1959, while also going through a difficult time with his wife Alma Reville (Mirren).

WHO’S IT FOR? Historians, lovers of Hitchcock, Hopkins and Mirren.

OVERALL

“Oh, good evening.” Even for a 36-year-old film critic, that phrase is burned into my head with Hitchcock’s signature, smug voice calmly delivering that line. From reruns, I saw plenty of episodes of the TV show “Alfred Hitchock Presents” and of course his films are legendary. Hitchcock is a fun romp focusing on an essential moment in the man’s life when he asks the question, “But what if someone really good made a horror picture?”

Much like Lincoln, Hitchcock is a stupid name for this film. While it is a biopic, it doesn’t chronicle the man’s entire life. Now, years from now, if someone wanted to make a story about his entire life, they’ll have to call it Alfred Hitchcock or get creative, since the best title will have been taken.

Better titles for Hitchcock:

Hitchcock’s Psycho
Hitchcock Does Psycho
Psycho’s Wife
Hitchcock and Reville
Hands Resting on Big Belly

Hopkins does wonders with this character. Not only does the makeup help, but Hopkins puts on an accent that fits, and has the movements down pat. It seems rare to see Hopkins try this hard, but it’s definitely welcome. Even little moments like watching “Hitch hold the cock” eat celery is entertaining.

Old Hollywood comes to life with studio heads, censor boards, fancy cars, and Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh. It’s not an over-powering performance by Johansson. She’s not seducing Hitchcock or the audience and for me that’s a welcome surprise. Jessica Biel plays Vera Miles and is wonderfully under-utilized, much like Hitchcock did with Miles in the film Psycho.

It’s odd we don’t have more movies about famous movie directors. Hitchcock does a wonderful job of getting into the head of Hitch. Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the inspiration for the book and film, visits the dark places that kick around the brain of Hitchcock, creating turmoil for the man’s professional and personal life. For a while, I just wanted the film to focus on that professional life, and leave his wife Alma on the side. I was wrong. Mirren proves that point completely in a perfect monologue about what it’s like to be on the sideline, quietly helping Hitch.

Luckily, no matter how dark or deep Hitchcock gets, it’s almost always with a playful tone. Hitchcock talks of getting back to the fun of filmmaking, and he is at play a lot of the time. Whether it’s sneaking drinks, eating candy corn, or holding up the knife for the classic scene in Psycho, it’s a good time. This is Gervasi’s first narrative feature, and while some moments seem pretty basic like a red carpet question leading to a flashback, overall he lets his actors act.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

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