Dir. by Sacha Gervasi - 1 hr. 38 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
I'm pretty sure that if you put Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, and Michael Wincott in the same movie, the results are going to be, at the absolute minimum, fairly watchable. When you put those people in a movie about Alfred Hitchcock and the making of "Psycho," you're got something going. And this was a good movie, an easy one to get into and watch, and it also falls prey to the need to explore a legendary figure's clay feet. Since that's a large part of the tension of the movie, it's understandable, and ultimately, Hitchcock himself isn't lessened by any of this, but it's not really a trend that I'd want to encourage.
Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), fresh off the success of "North by Northwest," is searching for his next project, his final film on his studio contract. Hitch settles on adapting "Psycho," a novel by Robert Bloch, about serial killer Ed Gein, but is met with incredible resistance. Hitch ends up having to finance the film himself, relying heavily on it's success. The pressure of everything starts to get the better of him, and his marriage (and professional partnership) with Alma (Helen Mirren) starts to show cracks. For his part, he's jealous of Alma's friendship with another writer, and for her part, she's jealous of the attention Hitch pays to the young starlets that he directs, like Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) and Vera Miles (Jessica Biel).
There are two things that pull at "Hitchcock" upon an initial viewing; there's a lot more drama in the story if you don't know much about the man himself, or about "Psycho." At the same time, I'm not entirely sure why anyone would want to see this movie if they weren't already interested in Hitchcock, or about the making of "Psycho." Since I knew a bit about Hitchcock and his career, many of the things that were supposed to be dramatic came off instead as people who were proven wrong in time trying to flex their muscles on him and his work. That lends a lightness to the proceedings (it's a lot harder to get mad at a studio head telling Hitchcock that they don't want to do "Psycho" when you know that the movie itself became a basis for a part of the Universal Studios tour at the theme parks, which suggests at least a basic level of success for the film) that helps the movie fly by. That leaves most of the heavy dramatic lifting up to Hitchcock's mercurial relationship with his wife, the strains of making a film that you're paying every dime for, and for the possibility that Alma might step out on Hitch with the writer that she's working with, Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston).
The problem with watching a "behind the scenes" movie is that you're going to have to get into some stuff you'd probably rather not know about someone. "Hitchcock" isn't really a muckraking movie, but there's difficulty with incorporating the peeping tom/gluttonous/jealous side of Hitch with his work, which still represents some of the finest films ever made. It shouldn't matter that he sometimes had harsh words for his wife, or that both of them were occasionally stubborn; that's real life. But since this is essentially the story of Alma getting her due (she, at one point, declines a by-line, saying that the people who matter would know that she was invovled), both publicly and from Hitchcock himself, it's important to show her being occasionally taken for granted, mistreated, and to be less than thrilled about that.
"Hitchcock" is a smooth ride, one that rewards fans of the director and of "Psycho" both. And with the cast involved, there aren't any weak spots to be found. It's kind of a feel-good story, which is odd for the characters involved, but it still works. There wasn't much drama to be found, but that was probably by design; a lot of this story demands a certain level of knowledge of it's viewers. And the reward is that both Alma gets her due, and we all get confirmation that even if nobody believed it at the time, Alfred knew exactly what he was doing.
3 / 5 - TV (HD)