Special mention: James D'Arcy's spot on Anthony Perkins, the decision to play Janet Leigh as a Doris Day ingenue (yoiks!), and best of all the loving mindfugging between Alfred and Alma (initials: AH!).
While this film does focus on the making of Psycho, it also spends a lot of time looking at some of Hitch's obsessions, quirks, the trials and tribulations he had to go through to get the movie made, and more importantly, his relationship to his wife Alma, who played a far greater role in his life than some people may realize. The film also once in a while cuts to flashes of Ed Gein, sometimes interacting with Hitch (usually in a dream) to show the influence of him on Psycho, as well as to highlight some of Hitch's thoughts and fears. There's also some playful breaking of the 4th wall as well.
The film isn't a complete or totally balanced portrayal of this wonderful director, but it nevertheless is quite satisfying. I think this film could have broad appeal, but is more rewarding if you're already familiar with Psycho, and Hitch himself.
I loved seeing the recreations of the making of Psycho, as well as the crap Hitch had to go through with various execs to get his way. As fun as this is though, the heart of the film is the relationship between Hitch and Alma. You can tell they loved one another, and sometimes have a symbiotic connection, but still squabble and butt heads, mostly due to Hitch's often stubborn nature.
I was leery when I first saw footage of Anthony Hopkins as Hitch, but he grew on me, and does a great job. Helen Mirren is absolutely fantastic as Alma, and might be the best part of this project. Scarlett Johansson in decent as Janet Leigh, Toni Collette is a delight as Hitch's secretary Peggy, and Jessica Biel is surprisingly solid, though underused as Vera Miles. As Ed Gein, Michael Wincott is creepily effective, and perfectly cast. Other notable names here include Ralph Macchio as Psycho's screenwriter, Michael Stuhlbarg as Lew Wasserman, and Kurtwood Smith as the head of the ratings board who was really critical of Psycho's subject matter.
This is a strong, and loving director tribute, but it doesn't quite reach the heights of something like Tim Burton's Ed Wood. I loved the little touches, especially the music, and the little quirky things (like using Gein). You can tell that Sacha Gervasi cares about the subject, and really wanted to do justice to the subject.
I'd say he was pretty successful. The film is a tad unbalanced and limited, but in the end is a splendid and highly enjoyable piece of work, especially if you dig on Hitch and films about filmmaking.
Very good movie! The movie is entitled "Hitchcock" and is based on the making of "Psycho", but in fact, it's more the story of Alma and her husband. While there is nothing wrong with that story ... in fact, it is quite interesting and entertaining ... it's just kind of false advertising. "Hitchcock" is a mix between a Hitchcock thriller, a comedy, a biopic, and a romantic drama. And I'm pretty sure that explains the negative reactions to the film. I agree that it's a strange mix but it works with what they are going for. Wanting to focus on the marriage between Alma Reville and Alfred Hitchcock, a romantic biopic can be dry, so staying true to the spirit of the legendary director, the film throws in some wry humour and frames it all with the tone of a thriller. The film's main purpose appears to just be entertaining. Which is all good, but the rather poor reception is because it could have used some depth into the interesting inner-workings of Hitchcock. At times it comes off as a superficial caricature but the man was a legend because there was so much more to him. Anthony Hopkins appeared to be exactly like Hitchcock both physically and linguistically. He got his sly and comedic mannerisms and phrasing perfect. Which fits the entertaining and humorous frame for the picture. Go see it!
In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma, are at the top of their creative game as filmmakers amid disquieting insinuations about it being time to retire. To recapture his youth's artistic daring, Alfred decides his next film will adapt the lurid horror novel, Psycho, over everyone's misgivings. Unfortunately, as Alfred self-finances and labors on this film, Alma finally loses patience with his roving eye and controlling habits with his actresses. When an ambitious friend lures her to collaborate on a work of their own, the resulting marital tension colors Alfred's work even as the novel's inspiration haunts his dreams.
Anthony Hopkins, buried somewhere underneath pounds of plastic and makeup, turns Alfred Hitchcock into a caricature. Yes, there are a few moments when it seems like a human being breathes out from under the mire, but mostly Hitch is a stolid mound of plastic flesh that wields a knife, and by the end of the film, there's no real insight as to how he became the genius filmmaker that he is or what is extraordinary about his execution of his craft. The script allows Helen Mirren to shine, giving her the one moment of true conflict in the film, a resounding monologue, but the effect fades like an echo. Scarlett Johansson is there, and that's about all one can say.
Yes, I think a review of this film is best expressed when one boils it down to the performances because there isn't much of a plot. Sure, there are circuitous strings of stories: we're supposed to suspect that Alma is having an affair (Will she or won't she? Come on, she won't.) and apparently Hitch's past leading ladies found themselves ... stars or ... like Grace Kelly ... I don't know. But these storylines go nowhere, or at least they go nowhere interesting.
When I compare this to other films about filmmaking, specifically Ed Wood, Hitchcock is a sore disappointment because whereas Ed Wood captured the thrill of filmmaking and the delight in the artistic life no matter the results, nothing is capture in Hitchcock except for a decent impression of the master by Hopkins.
Overall, as biopics go, this is not at all interesting.
Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) is starting to feel like he's being left behind in Hollywood. He's looking for his new project, something to rekindle his creative fervor, get those juices flowing once more. Then he comes across the book Psycho, based upon the murders of Ed Gein, a man who thought his dead mother was telling him to kill and make skin suits of his victims (Gein is also the inspiration for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs; truly the gift that keeps on giving for horror). Murder, cross-dressing, incest. You can understand the hesitation from studio heads to bankroll the picture, even with the great Hitchcock name attached. With the sturdy support of his unflappable wife, Alma (Helen Mirren), Hitchcock puts his own money and clout on the line to see Psycho through. As the pressure mounts, Alfred is worried that his wife is spending a bit too much of her time with a certain screenwriter who wishes to woo her efforts away.
Sir Alfred was a blunt individual so I will follow suit and mince no words - this movie is terrible. How could it possibly be? It has tremendous acting talent and the rich angle of looking at the making of one of Hollywood's most controversial and famous movies of all time the groundbreaking Psycho. Alas, it's when the movie takes its many sidesteps away from the behind-the-scenes action of Psycho is where it goes astray. First off, I find the narrative framing around the marriage of the Hitchcocks to be superficial and hamstrung. We're telling this vastly interesting story and grounding it in a very slight manner, gauging every creative struggle through the prism of whether or not Alfred and Alma will stick together. I assume it's supposed to provide an emotional entry point for the movie, but I just didn't care. I didn't care about the jealous spasms Alfred felt as his wife spent more and more time with a caddish screenwriter, and boy did that storyline get tiresome. I want to know more about Psycho and not this dumb portrayal of martial woes told with such graceless handling. The whole portrayal seems so minute and clumsy and such a poor framing device when the making of Psycho is a juicy enough story. I didn't need the focus to be on whether the Hitchcock marriage will persevere. Oh, and the resolution for this feels completely pulled from thin air, without any groundwork laid to explain the about-face into compassion in those final minutes.
Then there's the portrayal of Alfred Hitchcock himself, which is so dubiously shallow when it comes to psychology. Oh, he's obsessed with blonde leading ladies? Oh he's a bit of a control freak? Oh he can be overbearing and demanding and standoffish? Wow, what powerful insights into arguably the most famous director in movie history. The movie, adapted by John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan), feels like it was made by someone who did the bare minimum of research on the man. There are no new insights or even mildly interesting ones to be found. It's the standard boilerplate repeated with different actors. And then there are the nails-on-a-chalkboard scenes where Hitchcock imagines himself talking confessionally to none other than Ed Gein (Michael Wincott). Excuse me? Oh my goodness do these tacky sequences just grate. I don't even understand their inclusion. Is this a manifestation of Hitchcock's own sense of madness when it comes to moviemaking? Does he feel some connection to the horrible disturbed man who inspired his newest film? Does Hitchcock only feel like he can communicate to a figment of his own imagination? Whatever the reason, I wanted to smack myself in the head every time hitch and Gein had a heart-to-heart. I should have known I'd be in for a bump ride when, in the movie's opening minutes, a news reporter asks Hitchcock, after the premier of 1959's North by Northwest, why he doesn't just hang it up? Did this idiot even see North by Northwest? ask Would youSpielberg if he should retire after viewing Saving Private Ryan or Kubrick after A Clockwork Orange?
Then there's the matter of Hopkins as Hitchcock. It never feels like the right fit. Turkey jowls aside, the man doesn't look too similar to Hitchcock nor does he adopt a demeanor that proves convincing. Sure he goes for that highly imitable voice and cadence that Hitch is well remembered for, particularly his openings on his own TV show. You never feel like Hopkins has a real strong bead on the character, and surely the fault lies with the weak characterization relying on the collective knowledge of Hitchcock's outsized public persona. Likewise, Mirren (The Debt) is fine but gets to play another of her steely strong-willed matriarchs. Mirren won't let you done when it comes to performance but, given the lack of strong characterization, she goes on autopilot. The best actor in the movie is surprisingly Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers) who has a striking similarity to Janet Leigh, and not just in what you're thinking. She's instantly likeable and takes the Hitchcock peculiarities in stride, putting up a strong front but voicing her concerns when appropriate.
Director Sacha Gervasi (Anvil! The Story of Anvil!) gooses up his story with all sorts of horror genre techniques, including editing fake outs and violent edits. I'm also unsure why so many liberties needed to be taken with the retelling of this story. I'm not going to be a person decrying the use of fictionalized elements in a true-life story for dramatic effect (I loved Argo), but you have to do so in a way that tells a better story without getting too far away from the essential truth of the matter. Hitchcock, in raising the talents of Alma, attributes many of Psycho's development achievements to her keen womanly insights when they came from others. That's fine, except that the movie portrays her in such a rarefied state of genius that she quickly becomes the movie's surefire narrative cheat. Having problem with the last act? Let's have Alma fix it. Having problems with the editing? Let's have Alma fix that. It's not compelling of a story for one character to chiefly have all the answers instinctively and without any sense of struggle. I understand that Alma did a lot of unaccredited work on Hitchcock's movies, though it wasn't uncommon for women to be screenwriters at that time and you'd think the pull of being a Mrs. Hitchcock would get her well-deserved credit. Regardless, I wish that Gervasi and McLaughlin had given Alma more depth than being put upon wife/secret savant collaborator.
It's a shame because there's a genuinely interesting movie to be had somewhere in here. The making of Psycho was fraught with difficulties and the studios just didn't get it. Watching Hitchcock work through that process and persevere would be far more interesting. I enjoyed the multitude of famous cameos, like Michael Stuhlbarg as Lew Wasserman, Hitchcock's agent and eventual head of Universal Studios, and even Ralph Macchio as Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano. I suppose the ins and outs concerning one of the most famous movies of all time could be considered, erroneously I feel, to be too "inside baseball." That's why I think the filmmakers expanded the romantic drama angle and had it consume the majority of the running time. Often the stupid perils of the will-they-or-won't-they romantic squabbles feel so petty and cheap considering the magnitude of the work going on. Hitchcock feels like a movie that found the least interesting and essential angle to tell the story of the making of Psycho. Diehard movie fans might find some fun to be had with the minutia of Hollywood and Hitchcock's life, but I cannot fathom how anyone could view this portrayal as effective. It's not insightful, it's not challenging, it's not relevant, and it's certainly not entertaining. This movie is not deserving of the name it bears.
Nate's Grade: C
Bookended in a very tongue and cheek fashion, with an intro and outro mimicking an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "Hitchcock" tells the story of an aging (well you guessed it) Alfred Hitchcock, as he attempts to create his masterpiece "Psycho". There is also a subplot which focuses on Hitchcock's wife (Alma Reville) and another man, which is far more compelling, but shockingly underutilized. That's not to say that the main focus, the "Hitchcock on-set" scenes, aren't riddled with a few interesting insights into the man's particular and peculiar methods of filmmaking, but the portions that keep the story moving are all during the more personal moments between Alfred Hitchcock and his wife (where we get to see a more humanized Hitch). In fact, for much of the rather well written script, writer John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan) paints Hitchcock as more of a witty, morbidly jolly and boyishly perverted caricature than a real person. And, while one can make an argument that this is the Hitchcock everyone came to see, that doesn't take away from the other large pitfalls "Hitchcock" falls into time and again, involving both its barely there direction and it's tonally awkward navigation, highlighted by many subconscious conversations between Hitchcock and Ed Gien, which don't work, yet keep happening. The man responsible for these actions, director Sacha Gervasi, whose previous directorial claim to fame was directing that overrated documentary "Anvil: The Story of Anvil", shoots a pretty straightforward film; meaning one that lacks heart for the larger than life character. And even the few times he attempts to be visually clever (the opening and closing scenes and a few high angled shots) quickly become repetitive, as his directorial arsenal comes off as pretty limp. I would go so far as to say that the decision to allow Gervasi to direct this movie may be the poorest directorial choice of 2012. OK, so what was I really expecting? Gervasi to direct this in Hitchcockian fashion? Well, no. But it would have been nice if he would have given audiences something interesting to look at, or put a new visual twist on a straightforward story that many are already familiar with.
The Acting: Starring Helen Mirren, as Reville, who gives an alluring performance (per her usual) and Anthony Hopkins, as the title character, this veteran duo and the chemistry they have together throughout, is pretty much the only real reason to pay 11 dollars to see this movie. And focusing on Hopkins for a second, he is sure to get a Best Actor nomination in a performance that audiences will gladly lose themselves in (be you Hitchcock fan or otherwise). It's just a shame that Daniel Day-Lewis had to play Lincoln, and in one fell swoop, absolutely ruin any other lead actor's chances this award season.
Side Note: I must add in, that James D'Arcy playing Anthony Perkins was a stroke of genius; just for the record.
Final Thought: Don't get me wrong, what this film does well, when discussing the story itself, is that it focuses almost exclusively on Hitchcock's life during a finite period of time; unlike "My Week with Marilyn" and "Julie and Julia" (both terribly misguided films) which use the main attractions as side characters. In short, "Hitchcock" is not a bait and switch. You get to see the performance you paid for. But, in saying that, much like "J. Edgar", the "Hitchcock" story undersells its product. Meaning, while the characters are interesting, the story isn't as captivating as it should be. Oh, and there is one more thing to keep in mind here. If you are a novice of this great director's work (as many today may be) or heaven forbid have never seen one of his films, then "Hitchcock" may come off as a shrug inducing experience; with a few laughs here and there. In fact, to truly enjoy this movie (again, aside from watching the two masterful lead performances) one must be a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, the man, and be familiar with the significance that "Psycho" had in American cinema in its day. So, unless I just described you, then (and I can't believe I'm going to say this) you should probably skip "Hitchcock".
Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
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