Review: Hitchcock

When you're the master of suspense, scaring the audience ain't easy but somebody's gotta do it.

When you’re the master of suspense, scaring the audience ain’t easy but somebody’s gotta do it.

Ok, I’m going to be up front here . . . I haven’t even seen a tenth of Alfred Hitchcock’s films let alone Psycho, which is the major focus of the film being talked about in this post–Hitchcock, the new semi-biopic about the famous director. Since I’m not that much of a Hitchcock buff I’m not exactly sure how much of what was shown on screen was true to who Hitchcock really was. If there’s hardly any thruth I won’t be surprised as this is a movie as well as one based off a book written by someone other than Hitchcock so who knows exactly how much “truth” made it onto the screen. In the end though it doesn’t really matter as what we get on screen is a fairly good impersonation of Hitchcock done by Anthony Hopkins. I don’t know if I believed Hopkins’s Hitch (in the film he likes to be called Hitch “. . . hold the cock”). but in the lighthearted and comedic vibe of the film I went with it and wasn’t bothered at all.

Where the film really shines though is the relationship and bond between the two leads and their characters; Hitch and his wife Alma played by the stalwart Helen Mirren. While “the great and glorious genius” Alfred Hitchcock is always in the spotlight and always seemingly putting on a show or production, Alma is the rock and emotional core of their relationship, and the sense that you get from the film is that she has helped Hitch weather the many storms of his career. Of course Mirren plays Alma beautifully with a strong sense of purpose and independence that unbeknownst to Hitch; is something that he desperately needs and comes into play as Hitch goes through the process of shooting Psycho.

Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins getting down and dirty in the editing room.

Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins getting down and dirty in the editing room.

Though well established as a filmmaker by this time, no one in Hollywood wanted to make a film adaptation of Psycho. Hard to believe in this day and age when Hollywood is buying up book properties like crazy (Twilight anyone?). In order to get the film made, Hitch has to finance it himself and either reap a hefty windfall by keeping his creative vision, or face losing credibility in Hollywood and personal finance should Psycho flop.

The film has a number of recognizable faces in supporting roles; first and foremost being every guy’s favorite actress, and former Mrs Ryan Reynolds, Scarlett Johansson. She’s actually pretty decent playing Psycho leading lady Janet Leigh. She isn’t given that much screen time, but when she is there she’s doing good work; most noteably when Hitch shoots the infamous shower scene. Michael Stuhlbarg and Toni Collette add solid turns as Hitch’s agent and assistant (respectively) while Jessica Biel even shows up in a secondary role (literally) as Vera Miles; former Hitchcock leading actress who has history with the storied director. Hell, we even had Ralph “The Karate Kid” Macchio show up in a small role as Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano. All in all a pretty solid cast giving credence to the film.

From start to finish I was pretty entertained by everything that was going on with Hitchcock. From the studio in fighting, to production problems, to relationship drama between husband and wife I bought into everything that the film was selling me. Probably the most interesting thing that struck me was that like Norman Bates, Alfred Hitchcock had an obsession with females as well–his leading ladies. This leads to emotional tension between Hitch and Alma that they struggle to deal with throughout the film, and by the end was handled very well despite being a bit predictable.

You guys want to make a movie called Psycho? It'll be big.

You guys want to make a movie called Psycho? It’ll be big.

This is also a movie about making movies and one highlight of the film (for me anyway), was the wheeling and dealing of Hitchcock to get a deal in place for his film and the support he provided afterward to help ensure its success. As any film geek will tell you, these types of films hit a certain sweet spot for us. I don’t know what it is exactly but seeing the drama behind the scenes makes for something entertaining. Part of the appeal was seeing Hitch fight against a studio system that wanted to give audiences that same experience while he as a filmmaker was trying to give them something more (does this sound at all familiar?) Where I really geeked out though was all the extra work and support Hitch gave when it came time to release Psycho to ensure it would be a success. Sure it’s easy enough for us today to see how filmmakers personally support their films and promote them using social media as well as reporting from movie bloggers. Back then I’m sure it was a whole other story and Hitch goes above and beyond to make sure not only did the theaters play his film, but showcase it in the best possible way as well.

In the end Hitchcock is a film that hits the mark that it sets out to aim for; an interesting and fun look at the filmmaker that was Alfred Hitchcock. Is some of the drama in the film exaggerated and played up a bit? I can almost say yes, but come on, this is a movie we’re talking about here. If it didn’t have some juiciness to it we probably wouldn’t watch it at all. The film tells us about a man who has reached legendary status in cinema history. What more could we ever ask for in a film about such a man other than a fun and entertaining story?

Hitchcock is now playing at Consolidated Kahala 8.

Rating 4/5 stars // PG-13 // 1hr 38min

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