Hitchcock: Behind every great man, there’s a great woman

3 stars and a half

Hitchcock 2012 movie posterDirected by: Sacha Gervasi
Written by: John J. McLaughlin; based on Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Danny Huston, Jessica Biel, James D’Arcy, Michael Stuhlbarg

Hitchcock, directed by Sacha Gervasi, deals with the difficult, obstacle-ridden process of taking Psycho to the big screen.

The legendary director, despite being an established, respected figure at the time of production, had to fight against censorship, detractors, studios, distributors and even his own demons, both inner (his unhealthy obsessions) and outer (his health, deteriorated by obesity), to be able to shoot and show the film that would be his first foray into full-out horror and that would define his oeuvre from that point on.

But beyond the obstacles and setbacks Psycho had to get over to reach the screen and become a classic, perhaps the most interesting thing this film has to offer is Alma Reville, Alfred’s loyal wife, who also dabbles as consigliere, editor, screenwriter, P.R. agent, reluctant red carpet date and even interim director. Despite narrating a fascinating chapter in the artistic life of a cinematic genius, the most worthwhile aspect of Hitchcock is Reville, an interesting, talented woman that worked tirelessly for her husband’s cause and never got the credit. This character wouldn’t be as appealing if it wasn’t for the great performance by Oscar winner Helen Mirren, who injects life, passion and anger into her role as the wife of one of the undisputable icons of celluloid. Mirren stands out, especially during a marital dispute in which Alfred questions her fidelity.

In the titular role, Anthony Hopkins does respectable work, despite the fact that his makeup is distracting and it never stops feeling like exactly that: makeup. For that, and because both men are so recognizable, Hopkins never fully becomes Hitchcock. In a way, we’re always aware that it’s Hopkins, under pounds of latex and face paint, rockin’ a fat suit. In tiny roles (the movie focuses almost exclusively on Alfred and Alma), Toni Collette, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Jessica Biel and Michael Stuhlbarg are commendable. Kudos to casting director Terri Taylor for getting James D’Arcy to portray Anthony Perkins. The resemblance is uncanny; I wish he’d gotten more scenes.

The film is a bit too much on the lighter side. Hitch’s insane fascination with his blonde leading ladies, as well as his drinking problem, are barely touched upon, while a lot of time goes into a series of imaginary sequences in which the filmmaker talks to/spies on Ed Gein, the real life killer who inspired Psycho. The only thing these scenes manage to do are confuse, slow down the pace and provide unnecessary padding. But, despite its flaws, which are easy to look past if one’s in the right mood, Hitchcock is an entertaining look into the production of a timeless classic and a fascinating voyage to the cinematic past, one that fans of the “master of suspense” shouldn’t miss.