DIR: Sacha Gervasi • WRI: John J. McLaughlin • PRO: Alan Barnette, Joe Medjuck, Tom Pollock , Ivan Reitman, Tom Thayer • DOP: Jeff Cronenweth • ED: Pamela Martin • DES: Judy Becker • CAST: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Michael Wincott, Jessica Alba, James D’Arcy
One of cinema’s most notorious, beloved and familiar profiles – literally and figuratively speaking – Alfred Hitchcock has quite the lengthy filmography. It’s in the latter years where this movie picks up, right after his success with North by Northwest. Hitchcock is lovingly based on Stephen Rebello’s non-fiction book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.
The titular figure, played through a palette of prosthetics by Antony Hopkins, is now sixty and anxiously in search of his next project. However when Hitchcock’s inspiration comes in the form of a particularly gruesome book based on Ed Gein, the media and film industry begin to question his competence. Surprisingly enough in those conservative times, a film based on a transvestite murderer who collected human remains for fun, was not a hit with the Studio heads – so Alfred decides to go it alone and fund the film himself.
For a film about the 1960 classic, the majority of the plot focuses not on Psycho’s set, but on on the tumultuous relationship between the Hitchcock himself and his long-suffering wife. Alma (Helen Mirren), in between curbing her husband’s indulgent consumption habits, working her magic on the set of Psycho and her very extensive gardening, starts working on her own side project with the dashing writer, Whitfield. Alfred is not happy.
The director of the comically tragic Anvil Rockumentary (and baby-daddy to Geri Halliwell), Sacha Gervasi is not the obvious choice as Hitchcock’s director but he certainly does a decent job. The film’s elements all gel quite nicely, amongst the most noticeable being the plot pacing; the glamorous production design which captures that fab 50s style; and not to mention a great soundtrack from Danny Elfman – who you might remember from such musical main title theme’s as The Simpsons.
The performances from the long list of A-list actresses do not disappoint. Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette and Jessica Biel all act up a storm; yet they are taught a thing or two by the veteran and still stunning, Helen Mirren. Hopkins, brings a boyish, vulnerable charm to the character of Alfred, however this is mostly down to his voice acting. Although it looked the part, it was quite hard to decipher any facial expressions under that dense mask.
Those expecting gritty dramatic realism will be bitterly disappointed, as this film sports a subtle hint of a syrupy sweetness amidst all the drama. While there’s a strong air of romanticism about the industry, mixed with one or two sneaky clichés, absolutely none of which stop Hitchcock from being an enjoyable, fun, suspenseful film.