Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson,
Toni Collette,Danny Huston, Jessica Biel, James D'Arcy
Director: Scaha Gervasi
The list of Hitchcock's influence is as long and wide as his
jowls. From Psycho, North by Northwest to The
Birds, Vertigo, Rear Window, the list goes on and on.
This latest release details his struggles to get Psycho made, following the success of North by Northwest and is a light and frothy affair, which is based on Stephen Rebello's non-fiction book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.
Anthony Hopkins dons the prosthetics and curls out his bottom lip to play the portly master of suspense in this film, set in 1959, which finds Hitch mulling over which project to take on, following the major success of North by Northwest and stung by a reporter asking him when he plans to retire.
Various proposals come his way - including Casino Royale - but taken by a novel Psycho by Robert Bloch (and about killer Ed Gein), Hitchcock becomes obsessed with getting this project off the ground - despite the protestations of both the studio and his wife Alma Reville (wonderfully portrayed with richness by Helen Mirren).
But Hitch is a man on a mission - and he starts to risk it
all by taking on this project. From mortgaging his house to self
financing the flick and dealing with the censors, it begins to push
their relationship to the absolute breaking point.
Coupled with starting to see Gein and suspecting Alma of an affair, the making of Psycho could be the unravelling of Hitchcock's hitherto charmed life.
Hitchcock is a knockabout film in parts which is potentially more suited to a telemovie than a big screen release.
Thankfully, some wonderful character performances elevate it from the level of the small screen; firstly, Helen Mirren, whose portrayal and portrait of a woman behind the man is nothing short of compelling, rich and watchable from the get go. How she never received some form of recognition beyond a BAFTA nomination for this is incredulous.
Anthony Hopkins is, in all honesty, a mixed bag in terms of his portrayal of Hitchcock. There are moments when he's spot on with the role, working under a prosthetic face and an enhanced girth. And certainly, there are times when he has the trademark pout spot on.
But then there are others when Hitchcock sounds like a curious mix of cockney Michael Caine put through a Welsh burr and mixed in with a fat suit. It's an extraordinarily odd sense of the man and at times, the make up and vocals become distracting. However, in encapsulating Hitch's more lecherous side, his obsessive compulsions and his propensity towards his leading ladies, Hopkins gives a never less than rounded portrait and insight into what propelled the man.
Scarlett Johansson impresses as Janet Leigh, all cheekbones and
empathy; but Jessica Biel as Vera Miles feels underwritten and
underused, which is a real shame given that Hitchcock felt that
Miles deserted him. I never really fully got the sense of why the
betrayal cut so deep. The story is an interesting look into what
went on with the making of such an influential film and offers an
intriguing peek and insight to those not already in the know.
While this may be more small screen, occasionally knockabout fare, the scenes where the infamous shower sequence in Psycho was shot come alive with a frisson of menace because of the work done by Hopkins as Hitchcock - and the final third of the film has some brilliant flourishes, humour and visual touches which are relatively lacking and sorely missed in the early stages. These touches only come alive because they choose to focus more on the dynamics of the relationship between Hitch and Alma and really soar because of the work predominantly done by Mirren.
All in all, Hitchcock is an entertaining, if occasionally forgettable, piece which will have you leaving the cinema and seeking out Psycho to rewatch - as well as some of Hitch's other fare. Which is no bad thing at all.