HITCHCOCK (Sacha Gervasi, 2012)
than following his hit NORTH BY NORTHWEST with a more conventional
thriller, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) seeks something more
adventurous for his next project. In HITCHCOCK the legendary director
decides that he must adapt Robert Bloch’s PSYCHO. Many in the industry
feel that the book, inspired by Wisconsin mass murderer Ed Gein, is too
violent and perverse to be a mainstream film and that a horror picture
is beneath Hitchcock. A Paramount studio executive is wary about
backing PSYCHO, so the Master of Suspense and his wife Alma Reville
(Helen Mirren) choose to finance it themselves.
based on Stephen Rebello’s book ALFRED HITCHCOCK AND THE MAKING OF
PSYCHO, HITCHCOCK takes dramatic liberties with the behind-the-scenes
story that strain credulity and attempt to diminish Hitch’s artistry by
detailing his personal shortcomings. Gein is imagined as a Hitchcock
confidante, like a devil perched on the director’s shoulder fanning the
flames of his fears. Hitchcock’s obsessions and neuroses are
well-documented in film scholarship and the movies themselves, yet this
drama fails to expose the psychologically complex figure that the
director’s public persona shields. Even in private Hitchcock the
character remains ever the showman.
theorizes that PSYCHO provides an allegory for Hitchcock and Reville’s
relationship. At best it’s a misguided attempt to explore her motherly
role in their partnership and his untamed indulgence. At worst it’s an
insulting perspective of a longtime marriage and vital creative
collaboration. Additionally, HITCHCOCK makes the assumption that it
must reduce his achievements to give Reville her deserved due.
Sacha Gervasi quotes shots from Hitchcock films and reproduces a
measure of the director’s dark, droll sense of humor, but ultimately
HITCHCOCK comes off as a glib film about a great film. The snarky tone
yields a movie as breezily entertaining but unfulfilling and
unenlightening as Hollywood gossip items. Hitchcock’s controlling
behavior isn’t beyond reproach, but what matters in the end to audiences
is how the director channeled his fixations into art, not how those
hang-ups may have made him difficult to live and work with. In its
attempt to demystify the people and process behind a classic film,
HITCHCOCK feels petty and disposable.
the replication of old movie sets and methods to the novelty of seeing
contemporary stars as Tinseltown legends, like Scarlett Johansson as
Janet Leigh, HITCHCOCK is content to be a film of minor surface
pleasures. Essentially it’s the antithesis of it’s subject’s work.