Alfred Hitchcock was a magnificent director. Also known as the "master of suspense," he worked with some of the most memorable actors in Hollywood, filming intense mysteries that capture audiences to this day. Working within the constraints of the studio system and the Production Code in some ways made him a better filmmaker as he found creative ways to continue to bring his vision to the big screen. Unfortunately, Hitchcock
the biopic is about none of these things. Instead, it focuses on his marriage to Alma Reville and the role she played in his success.
After releasing North by Northwest
(his 46th film), 60-year-old Hitchcock (Sir Anthony Hopkins) was on the hunt for his next project. For reasons that cannot be explained, he was drawn to a novel inspired by Ed Gein, murderer, desecrater of graves and mama's boy. Convinced Psycho
would be a brilliant film adaptation, he bought every copy of the book, commissioned a script and proceeded to be laughed out of the offices at Paramount, where he was under contract. Determined to make the picture, he independently financed the production. And through his new obsession with the story -- and his leading lady – Alma (Helen Mirren) provided her support. Though pushed too far, their relationship became strained and would require a grand gesture from Hitchcock to repair it.
This is less a story about the director than it is about the woman behind the man. The picture shows Alma's influence was in everything. She suggested the actors he cast, reworked the scripts and gave Hitchcock the confidence to continue when his doubts began to takeover. Never getting the credit she deserved, Alma simply smiled and watched the world fawn over her husband's brilliance. It's not surprising she gravitated towards a younger writer (Danny Huston) willing to acknowledge her creative talents as her own.
While this is an interesting insight into the life of a famous director, it's not really the reason to watch a film called "Hitchcock." It could have been fascinating to get a better idea of his process or his battles with the Hays Office over censorship. Instead the film demonstrates his bad eating habits and his relentless preoccupation with the women he casted in his pictures. In addition, the injection of Gein into the film is odd and somewhat inappropriate.
The cast is a list of familiar names and faces. Hopkins truly tries to capture the essence of the late filmmaker, adopting his mannerisms, posture and speech patterns. With the help of prosthetics he even looks the part; but at times there's still too much Hopkins that shines through. Mirren is reserved, allowing Hopkins to dominate the screen though her presence is still felt.
If you’re interested in Hitchcock’s domestic life, this film is for you. But don’t expect to learn much about the man in the director’s chair.
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Starring: Anthony Hopkins
, Helen Mirren
and Scarlett Johansson