Review: Hitchcock / Cert: 12A / Director: Sacha Gervasi / Screenplay: John J. McLaughlin / Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Michael Wincott / Release Date: February 8th
Coming not too long after the BBC/HBO film, The Girl (shown in the UK over Christmas), this big screen biopic has Hopkins don the fat suit and idiosyncrasies of the great director.
It's 1959; Hitch and his wife, Alma Reville (Mirren) are forced to remortgage their house in order to make the film version of Robert Bloch's Psycho, a book the director believes in so much he buys up every copy, rendering it unavailable to the general public. Bloch's story was, of course, influenced by the notorious Ed Gein (Wincott), whom we see dispatching his brother in the pre-credits sequence. Promptly followed, aptly, by a droll Hitch introduction in the style of his '50s TV show (complete with his Funeral March of a Marionette signature tune). As well as the struggles Hitch had with the studio over his decision to make the film (hence financing it himself), there are censorship arguments and his suspicion that Alma may be having an affair with another writer to contend with.
History has proved that Psycho was a major turning point in Hitch's career, and while he would only complete a handful of films thereafter, his legend would continue to grow. There's a special frisson, then, in glimpsing the man in the act of creating the legend. So, while we may have all read about him wielding the knife during the famous shower scene, seeing it depicted is still deeply unsettling (especially as it's one of a number of times where Hopkins slips into Lecter mode). Hopkins does an admirable job with the mannered way in which Hitch spoke, but doesn't quite occupy the role as much as he should, although his portrayal is less demonizing than Toby Jones' brilliant turn in The Girl. Mirren is the star of this production, giving Alma the gravitas she deserved, as Hitch's rock and inspiration. The (fictional) subplot of the affair is just a device to show his jealous side, but at least it stops short of being a hatchet job. However, the swipes at Anthony Perkins' (James D'Arcy, who is perfect in the role) private life (“you may call me Hitch, hold the cock”) are cheap. The fantasy sequences of Hitch conversing with Gein are crass and out of place outside the aforementioned prologue, and the unmistakable Danny Elfman score is overshadowed once Bernard Herrmann's screaming strings cut in.
Rather than a revealing biopic about the great man, we get an entertaining, if flawed, look at the making of a classic film, and as director Gervasi's mainstream feature debut (after the fabulous Anvil – The Story of Anvil) it's a step in the right direction.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10