Directed by Sacha Gervasi
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette and Jessica Biel
If you have read my post on favorite directors, you'll know that Alfred Hitchcock made the list. I don't know much about him, other than the movies he left us with. That's why I was so interested in seeing this biographical drama. When I found out that Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren were involved, I was tempted to see "Hitchcock" the week it opened in theaters. I missed that opportunity, and the remainder of its run had one evening showing per day, so I eventually decided to wait for the Blu-ray. Reviews have been disappointing, but, as always, I trusted my instincts and decided to make up my own mind.
Hopkins doesn't try to mimic Hitchcock's voice exactly, but he does employ the deliberate mode of speech that most of us are familiar with. The makeup isn't entirely convincing either, but it's good enough to get the job done. Hopkins plays the director quite seriously, and I felt that Hitchcock's playful nature was a little underused.
What the movie attempts to do is take us back to the making of Psycho, which was released in 1960. Paramount's bosses were seeking something similar to North by Northwest, which had been released in 1959, but Hitchcock wanted to try something new. We learn how the project was chosen, and the sacrifices that Hitchcock and wife Alma made to make it happen. It's an interesting look at a brief time in a career which spanned more than half a century.
The movie gets a lot of things right; It looks and feels like 1960, Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel manage to resemble film stars of that era, and the casting in general is excellent.
I've been thinking about why reviews were so negative, and I've come to the conclusion that it is a movie which will appeal to a very specific audience. It's not a gripping drama, and there isn't much excitement. This is a story intended for movie buffs or fans of Hitchcock. If you want to know more about his character, and how movies are made, this has something for you. Character studies are hard to get right, and the movie is far from perfect. But I was engrossed for 90 minutes, and enjoyed learning how some of the events came to pass. The marketing for Psycho was inventive, and contributed to its early success. Some of that story is shown here.
The biggest source of conflict in the movie is Hitchcock's relationship with Alma. We learn something about their home life, and ultimately how important she was to his success. There's an explosive scene, just over an hour into the movie, in which Mirren's performance is elevated from good to great. It reminded me somewhat of the scene in Doubt, where Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman finally confront each other.
Seeing "Hitchcock" makes me want to watch Psycho again, and I will do so in the near future. I've also been watching the excellent Bates Motel, starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore, and would recommend that as a good companion piece to Psycho if you're a fan.
"Hitchcock" works for its intended audience, but many people will find it lacking. It's a quiet movie, focusing on characters and details, rather than intensely dramatic scenes. I'm not sure what moviegoers were expecting. Perhaps they were hoping for a detailed look at Hitchcock's entire career? Lincoln fell flat for some viewers for similar reasons. If you enjoy seeing good acting, and have any interest in the man, "Hitchcock" is worth your time.
Overall score 4/5 (for it's intended audience)
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