Sir Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are starring in the story of the Hollywood legend who brought us The Birds, North by Northwest and Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock is now playing in local theaters and Larry Thomas has a review.
Every so often Hollywood gets the urge to do a biopic of someone famous, preferably one of their own. This urge is so strong it sometimes results in two different films that end up being released within weeks, if not days, of each other. In 1965, there were two films called Harlow, about thirties blonde bombshell Jean Harlow. Neither was very good. A few years ago, Philip Seymour Hoffman won an Oscar for playing the title role in Capote. Not long after, a similar story was told about the famous author titled Infamous, starring Toby Jones. Very few saw the “other” version.
And now it’s Alfred Hitchcock’s turn. Earlier this year, HBO made a film called The Girl, also starring the aforementioned Toby Jones, which covered Hitchcock’s obsession with Tippi Hedren during the making of The Birds. I haven’t seen it yet, but reports were not favorable. The currently on-screen Hitchcock is about the making of Psycho, as well as several other obsessions of the legendary director. It also gives ample screen time to Alma Reville, Hitchcock’s long-time, long-suffering, and likely equally talented wife.
Unfortunately, Hitchcock is unsatisfying much like a casserole made from whatever might be on your pantry shelves. Some of the ingredients work, others don’t. We know that it’s Anthony Hopkins in prodigious padding and make-up as the master of suspense, but the voice isn’t right. It’s part Hitchcock, mainly Hopkins, and could swear I heard an accent or two from his Nixon performance creep in. On the other hand, since no one knows anything about Alma Reville, Helen Mirren shines as the driving force behind Hitchcock. Almost anything Mirren does is wonderful, and here she really shines in a role that earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.
From what I know of Janet Leigh, the star of Psycho, Scarlett Johansson is spot-on perfect playing the actress who starred in, at the very least, five of my all-time favorite movies. And James D’Arcy does fine work representing Anthony Perkins. The rest of the cast ranges from okay to ho-hum. Director Sacha Gervasi, whose only other film to date was the music mocumentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil seems to be an odd choice to chronicle this slice from the life of a very complex man, full of massive appetites, deep obsessions, but who also possessed a wonderful sense of humor. Not to mention that Hitchcock the film has the look, feel, and pace of yet another TV movie. Even at the comparably slight running time of 98 minutes, it feels much longer.
So, by now, you’re probably thinking “Okay, smarty pants. How would you have made the film?” I was thinking about that myself as I watched it. First, it needs a sharper script… razor sharp, if you will. Some of the best lines are given away in the trailer so that there are no surprises, as far as hearing memorable witticisms. Next, I would have given it to a director who has a burning passion with movies and their preservation, as well as stylish edge, namely Martin Scorsese. And without question, given the subject matter and time period, Hitchcock should have been shot in black-and-white. And finally, rather than spending money on Danny Elfman’s faux Psycho-ish score, which is not his best work, I would have spent it on getting the rights to use Bernard Herrman’s groundbreaking original score, a tactic Scorsese used in his remake of Cape Fear.
But, Hitchcock is overall not a bad film, neither is it a good film. It’s one of those films that seem better suited for watching at home when you have nothing better to do. You should consider popping in the original Psycho to follow.
The PG-13 rated Hitchcock is now showing at the Esquire Theatre and AMC Newport on the Levee.