Hitchcock 2012 Review: A Not-So Thrilling Look at the Master of Suspense
As one of the most notorious and, shall we say, eccentric filmmakers of the past century, a devoted fan would expect a biopic about the legendary Alfred Hitchcock to not only offer some new insight into his life and work, but also be stimulating and outstanding. Hitchcock, unfortunately, is hardly either.
The film follows the making of the highly regarded 1960’s Psycho, as this film is based on the book Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello. We are invited to witness the production of the masterpiece from the beginning, when Hitchcock (played by Anthony Hopkins) first decides to adapt Robert Bloch’s novel, through casting and filming, to the end of the film’s successful premiere. Whilst we encounter numerous difficulties involving studio executives, financing and censorship, the greatest struggle at the heart of it all is the relationship between Hitchcock and his devoted wife Alma (Helen Mirren).
Reiterating the phrase “behind every successful man there is a great woman”, their partnership (both marital and professional) appears to be entirely dependent on Alma. Mirren provides a wonderful portrayal of a woman whose husband is both an extremely talented man, as well as a selfish brat. Having said that, it is worth noting the somewhat sweet sides of their relationship, as we see how Hitchcock values Alma’s opinions above everyone else’s, and is thrown into a fit of jealousy when he discovers she is working on a script with another man.
Hopkins manages to successfully convey some of the director’s prominent characteristics, particularly when he is addressing the audience directly in the beginning and the end, however he does not quite accomplish to generate any form of sympathy. We are left with the same notion of Hitchcock that we most likely had to start with: he ate a lot, drank a lot, was very demanding, yet talented, and a bit of a stalker.
Hitchcock’s blonde of the moment Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson), whom he unapologetically flirts with in front of Alma, delivers surprisingly little dramatic tension to the story. Discounting of course the incident with the infamous shower-scene, where Hitchcock himself steps in to wave a knife at Leigh in order to obtain a desired reaction, their relationship seems unnervingly normal considering the reputation of the director. Whilst Johansson is satisfactory at best, it is Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) and Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy) who undoubtedly deserved more screen-time.
Though the film has numerous flaws, it is overall entertaining. For those who have not spent hours reading biographies and interviews and seen (almost) every Hitchcock film ever made, you may well enjoy it. In fact, even those who have may enjoy it too. The fundamental problem many Alfred Hitchcock fans will have with Hitchcock is that it is not the real Hitchcock. And nothing will ever be good enough besides the real thing.
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