Christmas is in the air and it’s time once again for the studios to throw whatever they have at us in hopes we’ll make it to the theater. It was with great enthusiasm that I sat down to watch Hitchcock, the film about that director we all know and love in what had to be the coldest theater on the planet. It’s winter in LA – stop it with the God-*@//&#$ air conditioning! I’m not sure what I thought I was going to get out of this film – maybe some sordid details about Hitchcock’s supposed affairs with his leading ladies, or a window on a tortured genius – but the film certainly wasn’t that.
Check out the trailer and find out what it was after the jump!
The movie flits between exposing the greedy, sycophantic aspects of Hollywood, to Hitchcock’s not so secret day dreams about every hot blonde he encounters, to his wife’s Alma’s not so lusty “affair”, to random cut scenes with the real life inspiration for the book and subsequent movie, Psycho. In its most basic form, the movie is about the making of the movie Psycho. I’m not sure if director, Sacha Gervasi, was trying to add depth to the movie by adding all of these different layers, but if that was the case he failed.
There were great moments of unique Hitchcock that they incorporated. He opens and closes the movie, much in the style that he did his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV show. They make an amusing reference to The Birds at the end, as Hitchcock tells the audience he’s looking for his next inspiration and a bird lands on his shoulder. We even get a glimpse of what it’s like to cut an iconic film. All the scenes and obvious choices we take for granted as the cannon of film are debated, thrown out, put back in and agonized over. That’s the good of the story.
The bad comes in the form of cut-aways featuring serial killer Ed Gein becoming Hitchcock’s therapist, his cohort in crime, and shoulder to cry on. All are somewhat disturbing and break the rhythm of the film. I eventually felt that they had a great kernel of a story, with Hitchcock having to fund Psycho on his own dime, and trying to recapture the magic of movie making, but they had to pad it with another hour of entertainment. There were too many threads of story all vying for dominance in a movie that should have had the laser focus of the director it depicts.
The saving grace of Hitchcock is the acting and score. Not one cast member fails in their duty to fully become their character. Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock, Helen Mirren as his wife, even lesser characters Scarlet Johansson, Danny Houston and Toni Collette all put in command performances. It’s the only thing that keeps you in your seat. Hopkins has Hitchcock’s unique speech patterns down and his makeup is transformative. Helen Mirren plays a great balance and wit to Hitchcock’s genius. She definitely made me want to know more about Alma Reville and her role in Hitchcock’s life. Danny Elfman provides the incomparable score. It’s Hitchcock in its very essence.
I didn’t go in expecting a light romp through the love and life of Alfred Hitchcock and I can’t say I’m generally pleased with the film. A little more depth and a little less wit was in order. I’ll have to wait for their next try at the legendary director.
5 portly silhouettes out of 10