Rating: 3 stars out of 5
One of two recent biopics about Alfred Hitchcock (the other being HBO's ‘The Girl’), this structurally sound and wittily written film follows the director during the making of his horror hit ‘Psycho’. Based on a non-fiction book by Stephen Rebello, ‘Hitchcock’ is definitely a film that horror buffs and fans of the director will love.
At the start of the film, we find Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) wondering what to do after the triumph of North by Northwest. He decides to take on Psycho, a book by Robert Bloch based on the real life case of Ed Gein, a murderer and grave robber who mutilated corpses.
Also read: Interview with director Sacha Gervasi
The studio isn't crazy about the idea, and Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) decide to fund the movie themselves. Alma is distracted by the attentions of Whitfield (Danny Huston), a screenwriter, which starts to fray their marriage. Meanwhile, director Sacha Gervasi tries to draw parallels between Hitchcock and Gein, but it is kind of hard to believe that Hitchcock has much in common with a killer that dug up his mother's corpse.
Hopkins is remarkable in capturing Hitchcock's mannerism, though the fat suit and prosthetics do get distracting. The feeling one gets when one looks at Hopkins' Hitchcock is similar to that when one looks at the life-like figures in Robert Zemeckis's animation films, where we try to find the uncanny valley where performer and character merge.
Helen Mirren is also outstanding as Alma, Hitchcock's forgotten partner in crime. She has spunk and an unwavering loyalty to Hitchcock, even if he can't see that. Toni Collette is also outstanding as Hitchcock's prim secretary Peggy Robertson, who puts up with the filmmaker's odd requests.
Also read: Interview with James D’Arcy
Scarlett Johansson is a little too genial as Janet Leigh, and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, one of Hitchcock's former starlets who he wanted to transform into the next Grace Kelly, is the film's lone sour note.
It all wraps up a little too neatly at the end. After resolving Alma's relationship with Witt, Hitchcock the film coasts along. Psycho goes on to be a triumph, helped by Hitchcock's savvy marketing. Gervasi also implies that Hitchcock's love for blondes has dissipated, though in Hitchcock's next film, ‘The Birds’, Tippie Hedren, accused him of very bad behaviour.
‘Hitchcock’ the film makes Hitchcock the man an eccentric genius, and passes off some of his tics as charming. It portrays him as an underdog fighting the studio system and the censors in order to get his genius made, but overall, it does not quite get under the skin of the man. Nevertheless, Hitchcock the film is entertaining, even if it takes a few too many liberties with the director's life.