Alfred Hitchcock is a legend in the film industry. From Birds to Psycho, his influence has probably reached every filmmaker since his time. For anyone who is a fan of his brilliance and for anyone who holds him in high esteem, the film Hitchcock is said to fall very short.
As for myself, I have seen very few of Hitchcock’s masterpieces, and because I watched them before I was remotely interested in film as anything but entertainment, I feel I enjoyed viewing Hitchcock perhaps more than his passionate followers. It is said that he was a very private man and this insight into his life would be very welcome had it been grounded in fact (and left out a certain affair type side story).
The 98 minute film follows Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) through his journey of shooting and releasing Psycho, arguably his biggest career achievement. His wife Alma (Helen Mirren), although never credited, is clearly his backbone and a huge inspiration to his decision making.
Coming off the release of a big hit, North By Northwest, Hitchcock is in search of a new story to sink his teeth into. Everything from the new Bond movie to an Anne Frank adaptation are thrown at him, but instead his interest is peaked by a new novel about a serial killer. He tells his assistant to buy every copy of the book in existence so that no one will know the ending to his next film. Despite hesitations from everyone surrounding him, Hitchcock decides to plow ahead, funding the film himself and barely getting the production company to agree to release the film.
The plot of Hitchcock follows small stories on set involving different actors and producers, but the heart of the film is really the relationship between Hitchcock and Alma. Hitchcock seems always preoccupied by his blonde leading ladies and Alma is preoccupied by a handsome writer who seeks her help. The married couple have their own issues, and despite visible tension between them, they were clearly made for one another. They are both brilliant in their fields, but as is the case in many artistic and creative households, there can be many disagreements.
The strength of the film tends to tip in the direction of both Alma Reville and Helen Mirren. Alma comes off as a powerhouse woman who has everything to do with Hitchcock’s success. She is imperative to his genius, although he hardly seems imperative to hers. The story becomes very one sided and those who are hoping for a riveting back story to Psycho will likely be very let down. Likewise, Mirren’s performance is nothing short of brilliant, whereas Hopkins and his nominated prosthetics did not hold my attention well.
Scarlett Johansson has a small role as the star actress Janet Leigh. I really appreciated her work and thought she fit and played the part well. Jessica Biel‘s role as Vera Miles doesn’t have much screen time, but she does fine with what is given to her.
The visuals of the film were slightly better than your average romantic comedy, although I did enjoy the costuming and, of course, the makeup. However, Mirren is the big stand out of the film. I may watch it again just to see her performance, but I think my time would be better spent watching the original Psycho itself.
If you have a thing for tense romances or an itch for a small window in to Hitchcock’s life, then I would recommend this film for you. However, don’t tie all of your hopes and dreams to Hitchcock because you will likely be disappointed in the end.