Thursday, December 13, 2012


Written by John J. McLaughlin

Directed by Sacha Gervasi

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA.  December 1, 2012  7:10 PM

It has been said that behind every man is a good woman and that is proven in "Hitchcock", an old-fashioned, Technicolor love story about the "Master of Suspense", Alfred Hitchcock and his struggle to bring to the screen the 1960 horror classic, "Psycho". The film makes it clear that this now classic probably would not have happened at all without the invaluable assistance of his devoted wife, Alma Reville. British acting royalty and Oscar winners, Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren bring the couple to cinematic life in this glossy but stilted bio-pic that could only happen in Hollywood

We first meet Hitchcock (Hopkins) after the success of his latest film, "North By Northwest" and his foray in to the new medium, television which has made him a household name. After his assistant, Peggy Robertson (Toni Collette) gives him the new book, "Psycho" by Robert Bloch which was loosely based on the Wisconsin murderer, Ed Gein, Hitchcock decides this story will be his next film. Although he owes Paramount Pictures another film, the executives refuse to finance the project. Undeterred, Hitchcock makes a deal to self-produce the movie if the studio will distribute it. However, he has to convince his wife (Mirren) to mortgage their home to help pay for this movie. Alma is far from thrilled as her husband is breaking Hollywood's golden rule not to ever use your own money but she has faith in his talent as a film maker.

Using his TV crew and hiring two movie stars, Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) and Anthony Hopkins (James D'Arcy), "Hitch" (minus the "cock", as he likes to say) only has minimum amount of time and limited funds to complete his risky film. The shoot is made even more complicated due to Hitchcock's battle with the censor board over how much of Ms Leigh's skin will be shown during the infamous shower scene, health issues involving his expansive waistline and growing concern that Alma's relationship with Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), a screenwriter (who wrote Hitchcock's "Strangers On A Train") that she's working on a script with, is getting too close for comfort.

Mr. Gervasi, who began his career as a screenwriter (most notably "The Terminal", the 2004 Tom Hanks-Steven Spielberg clunker) before directing an acclaimed documentary, "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" about a Canadian heavy metal outfit, has done a competent but unremarkable job with "Hitchcock", his first feature. Based on Stephen Rebello's "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho", the director has managed to re-create a believable atmosphere on a Hollywood sound stage but is less successful in creating a credible world off-camera. For even after Hitchcock yells "cut", it still feels like the actors are continuing to recite lines while simply performing for a smaller audience. The film looks great thanks to the fine work of cinematographer, Jeff Cronenweth ("The Social Network" and the U.S. version of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" which he received Oscar nominations for both) and the sensational costumes by Julie Weiss.

Since we are fully aware of the eventual outcome of  "Psycho" as it becomes one of the director's most popular films and the marriage of the Hitchcocks endured until his death in 1980, this behind-the-scenes look might be fascinating to a hardcore film buff (like myself) but to the casual fan, it's a little thin as there's not nearly enough dramatic tension to any of the challenges presented to hold much interest.

Despite the elaborate make-up (which is quite good but distracting at times) and a great effort to mimic the distinct vocal affectations of the famed director, Mr. Hopkins is no dead ringer and his voice waivers like he doesn't have the stamina to keep it up. But it's still clear who the actor is doing with his bold performance admirable but not particularly memorable. Since little is known publicly about Lady Hitchcock, we'll have to assume that Ms Mirren is at least giving us the essence of this modest, fiercely independent woman behind the larger-than-life man. Although it matters little as the alluring actress is always endlessly fascinating to watch work her magic. Seen only briefly, Mr.D'Arcy is a passable Perkins but Ms Johansson and Jessica Biel (who plays co-star Vera Miles) have much more screen time, rely heavily on their own personal star wattage as their performances seem based on research done from old, Hollywood fan magazines.

"Hitchcock" is a quaint, lightweight entertainment with the main reason to see this film is to witness the always reliable gifts of Sir Anthony Hopkins and, most especially, Dame Helen Mirren.