‘Hitchcock’ Movie Review – Not Quite Psycho Enough
There is no denying Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most influential figures in American cinema. It seems like every other week a movie is released with his stamp. Of all his works, Psycho is arguably the most “ground-breaking,” making Sacha Gervasi’s biopic following Hitchcock’s life leading up to and during the release of the 1960 classic a novel idea. It’s unfortunate Hitchcock splits its time between the making of Psycho and his relationship with his wife (and film partner) Alma Reville. The former is much more enthralling than the latter.
Coming off the success of North by Northwest and Vertigo, Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) could almost pick any project he wanted. When the suitors came calling, Hitch didn’t seem to bite on any projects. Although he’d had all the success in the world, he kind of longed for a more challenging task. While he could almost pick his next project, Hitch tests the limits of “almost,” as he chooses an off-the-wall book about a crazed serial killer (Michael Wincott) from Wisconsin.
In that day in age, brutal horror films weren’t the norm. Culturally, it wasn’t easy for horror movies to be made and become successful. This challenged excited Hitch, but scared the studios, forcing him to cover a lot of the film’s cost. Considered a gamble at the time, Psycho ended up being one of the most highly revered movies in American cinema. Watching it today for the first time may not do the film complete justice, but seeing every other film after it trying to replicate the horror is pretty amazing.
There is more to the story, though, as Hitchcock delves into the tumultuous times between him and his wife Alma (Helen Mirren). Again culturally, she wasn’t able to ever escape her husband’s shadow. She was the unsung hero behind all of his successes, and her behind-the-scenes work during Psycho’s filming saved the ground-breaking picture from outright failing.
And Hitchcock serves as the thank-you letter to her contributions to both Psycho and all of Hitch’s work.
Still, these seemingly separate stories don’t really mix as fluently as you’d hope. All of the stuff regarding Psycho’s struggles – from the studios to the actresses (played by Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel) to the memorable shower scene – were genuinely fun to watch. Even with the sort-of annoying meta aspect, I dug learning about the filming process. For people who love to look up movie trivia, Hitchcock is bubbling with great insights.
When the film turns into a love story, though, it takes a direction that is simply not as exciting. I feel kind of bad that I cared so little about Alfred and Alma, but it’s the sad truth. I just wanted it to get back to Psycho.
This isn’t to say that Hopkins and Mirren weren’t great. Hopkins, if I had to guess, will get the Academy Award buzz quicker than Mirren, but I actually preferred her. There was a less-showy quality to her performance that seemed just a little more genuine. Hopkins, doning the enhancements necessary to look the part, still deserves plenty of praise, but I’m thinking Mirren will be grossly overlooked.
To me, history lessons are fun. This is why I love classic retellings, like the recently released Lincoln, or the contemporary history lessons like David Fincher’s The Social Network. They provide a context for figures, events, or etc. that make you think. Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock unfortunately didn’t quite reach its potential. The result is still a positive experience, but the focus could’ve used some shifting, in my personal opinion. Still, audiences will find plenty to like in the performances and the bits of Psycho history that is subsequently present.
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