Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Jessica Biel
“You may call me Hitch. Hold the Cock.” (Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock)
Films about Alfred Hithcock are just like buses – you wait ages for one and then two come at once (the other being The Girl, with Toby Jones and Sienna Miller). This particular bus is being driven by Anthony Hopkins with Helen Mirren as the conductor. Mind you, buses don’t have conductors any more. I don’t know what she does, then, but the fact is she’s on the bus anyway and she does a ruddy good job doing whatever it is she does. In hindsight, let’s just scrap this bus pish because I’m clearly in over my head.
Hitchcock recounts a particular point in the legendary director’s life. Having just finished North By Northwest and getting increasingly frustrated by the media’s portrayal of him, Hitchcock decides his next film is going to be a controversial film that pushes the boundaries of taste and decency – Psycho. Hitchcock, then, follows the events from Psycho‘s original conception right through to the film’s theatrical premiere.
Anthony Hopkins is impressive as Hitchcock. The make-up is interesting in that while he doesn’t look exactly like the man himself, the transformation is so radical you wouldn’t know it was Hopkins unless you were told. Of course, Hopkins can’t help how he looks, but he can help how he sounds and he manages a convincing Hitchcock impersonation throughout.
Despite the title however, this is really a film about Hitchcock’s wife Alma – played masterfully by Helen Mirren – as she struggles to cope with her husband’s obsession with his other love, his filmcareer. As Hitchcock gets more and more engrossed in the making of Psycho, Alma starts wondering if it’s really worth sticking by her husband’s side, and the newfound attention placed on her by screenwriter Whitfield Cook sees her faced with a difficult decision.
As well as the strength of the two leads, Hitchcock is also blessed with an impressive supporting cast. Scarlett Johansson is immensely likeable as Janet Leigh, while James D’Arcy plays a perfect Anthony Perkins.
The film recreates many of the famous stories surrounding the Psycho shoot – the way Hitchcock took over from Perkins during the shower scene, his odd proposal to an unconvinced Paramount to get the film green-lit the fact that he didn’t like the famous Bernard Hermann music during the shower scene but his wife insisted – it’s all in here.
Only one aspect of Hitchcock had me scratching my head – the Ed Gein sub-plot. It’s well known that Psycho was based on the real-life story of mass murderer Ed Gein (as was The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), but Hitchcock takes it one step further by implying the ghost of Gein was haunting Hitchcock and appearing in hallucinations during the course of the filming. It’s all very silly and feels a bit jarring given that the rest of the film is supposed to be based on true events.
That aside, Hitchcock is a must-see for anyone interested in the legendary director or the making of his most famous film. With fantastic performances throughout and a clever script that will cause more than a few wry chuckles, it’s well worth a watch. Just bear in mind as you watch it that, as far as I’m aware, Ed Gein’s ghost wasn’t actually involved in the production.
HOW CAN I SEE IT?
Hitchcock has been and gone in US cinemas, but it’s currently enjoying a theatrical run in the UK.