Cert: 12a Runtime: 98 mins Director: Sacha Gervasi Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johnansson, Jessica Biel and Michael Stuhlbarg
That, my dear, is why they call me the Master of Suspense
Anyone that knows me, will know that Alfred Hitchcock is one of my all time favourite people in the world. This man has inspired so many film makers and cinema goers. When I read that Anthony Hopkins was going to portray the great man, I knew I had to watch it. In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren), are at the top of their creative game as filmmakers amid disquieting insinuations about it being time to retire. To recapture his youth’s artistic daring, Alfred decides his next film will adapt the lurid horror novel, Psycho, over everyone’s misgivings. Unfortunately, as Alfred self-finances and labors on this film, Alma finally loses patience with his roving eye and controlling habits with his actresses. When an ambitious friend lures her to collaborate on a work of their own, the resulting marital tension colours Alfred’s work even as the novel’s inspiration haunts his dreams.Going into Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock, I was contemplating the recent wave of interest in the man Alfred Hitchcock and his work. But that’s just it; is the interest in Hitchcock recent or has it always been present? With the new HBO biopic, the fact that Vertigo is now considered what one could call the “official” best movie ever made, and the wealth of buzz Gervasi’s film has received within the last few months, can we assume that the interest of Hitchcock is a simple trend or did he bring something to the table that has been and will continue to be eternal?
All I can say is the film had me at “good evening” and held me to the final “good evening.” This is a luscious, engaging, and darkly satisfying portrayal of the master of suspense as he fights the uphill battle of filming, producing, and releasing Psycho, the iconic sixties horror film that revolutionized the genre with its cutting edge suspense and, at the time, gruesome and famous shower sequence.Anthony Hopkins does not play, but embodies the title character, showing beneath the invaluable publicity, media attention, and film reviews, that he is a sensitive, self-doubting, and struggling auteur who is subject to the idea that since he has made so many films, when will his downfall begin? Right after the premiere of North by Northwest in 1959, people questioned if the man had the energy and the power to continue making films at the unheard of speed he was previously doing. He could’ve easily just quit while he was ahead.But he didn’t; he managed just a year later to make and produce one of the finest examples of subversive horror that the film industry ever knew. This was a price he vigorously paid for, having to mortgage his own home and almost lose his marriage in the process. He begins reading Robert Bloch’s Psycho, and gets the idea to adapt it into a feature film, despite knowing the battle it would be to get it financed, distributed, and entirely released to the public.
He takes the risk and shoots the film into production.Meanwhile, Alma Reville, Hitchcock’s wife, portrayed whimsically and poetically by Helen Mirren, begins a stable friendship with writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), who gives her pleasure, reassurance, and attention. While their get-togethers remain genial and sexless, Hitchcock himself doesn’t know that, and because of it, assumes that his wife is having an affair, but hardly has time to think what with perfecting sequences involving actress Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) and dealing with the heavy-handed MPAA representative (Kurtwood Smith).Hopkins is worthy of an Oscar nomination, along with Mirren, delivering a splendidly macabre, witty, and brash performance of the man so many admire. Rarely this year have we been blessed to see an actor get so into character, with a realistic performance of an iconic figure (with one of the notable exceptions being Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln) and have so much fun doing it. Mirren, on the other hand, has a more serious role, giving us a warmly and delightfully devoted woman who tries to feel every emotion her husband does. She finds this incredibly difficult, especially when Hitchcock begins having conversations and interactions with serial killer Ed Gein in his dreams.In some cases, Hitchcock feels a bit too broad in some cases, not perfectly emphasizing parts in the man’s life, such as previously marriage difficulties, if any, and sometimes, almost teeters back and forth between goofy satire and cheeky homage. Yet it’s the performances, the smooth (and sometimes beautifully red-velvet) cinematography, the old-Hollywood vibe, and the depiction of how confined and strict the censorship regulations were that make this film truly a fun, worthwhile endeavor.