Director: Sacha Gervasi
Screenplay: John J. McLaughlin
Novel: Stephen Rebello
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Wincott, Jessica Biel, James D’Arcy, Richard Portnow
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 98 min
If you’re going to make a movie about one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, your movie had better be good. To put it plainly, Alfred Hitchcock is simply one of the best and most famous film directors in history. And Psycho is arguably his most notorious film. It is an unfortunate shame, to say the least, that both the man himself, and this brilliant film, have been over simplified and stripped of all actual suspense and drama for the attempted biopic, Hitchcock. It is even more regrettable I’m afraid, to see two winning performances buried in such a middling movie.
Hitchcock adapts the modern style of biography filmmaking, choosing to focus on one particular period in the man’s life instead of a more strict adherence to portraying his life from birth to death. This approach worked quite well in films like Capote and My Week with Marilyn because, even though we only got a glimpse at their lives, we still got a grander sense of who they were and how they became these people. Screenwriter, John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan), chooses to focus all of his attention on the period where Hitchcock made Psycho, but it seems to me it could have been any movie really. After all, all he did was take all these popular ideas of who Hitchcock was as a person, from his obsession with blondes to his overeating to his control issues, and plop them into the behind the scenes of Psycho. A setting should have a purpose; this slice of his life should have been so particularly telling that it would also inform on what came before and where the man would go after. Instead, we get in and out of Hitchcock’s life without getting to know very much about him at all.
Hitchcock is far from disastrous but it just feels so slight and unfocused, which may be the inexperience of the film’s director, Sasha Gervasi. In fact, the only true anchors the film has are its two lead stars, Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, as Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock. Neither is given very much to work with but they make the most of it every moment they’re on screen. Hopkins takes the caricature he was given on the page and gives us an eye into the man’s soul. This is even more impressive given the size of the fat suit he’s got on. His Hitchcock is anxious, worried, unsure but also passionate and determined. His scenes with Mirren are what brings the film to life. They are a feisty pair and their chemistry truly feels like that of a dedicated, married couple, who have been together for ages. Together, Hopkins and Mirren make Hitchcock worth watching.
In conclusion and further to my first point, if you’re going to make a movie about Hitchcock, it should be a film that Hitchcock himself would be proud of. I’m not so sure he would have been able to sit through this one.