Hitchcock – Film Review
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson
by Dan Berlinka
After an arresting yet playful opening, Hitchcock looks like it’s going to be an affectionate behind-the-scenes romp through the making of Psycho. A film that (for horror fans like me) pretty much changed everything and arguably invented the whole slasher sub genre.
Like the similarly eponymous Lincoln, while the title suggests biopic, the focus is only on one specific episode. As much as I love Psycho, it’s a considerably less pivotal moment in history than the abolition of slavery.
Anthony Hopkins as Leytonstone’s favourite son takes some getting used to. The prosthetics are distracting and the voice is never quite right. Comparisons are odious but Toby Jones in the BBC’s The Girl is much closer. In fairness to Hopkins it looks as if he and the film are aiming for something beyond an impersonation. Yet perversely that may precisely be the picture’s problem.
“Tells us little about the man”
In wanting to tell more than a mere inside story, the narrative remoulds around Hitchcock’s marriage to Alma Reville (an effortlessly brilliant Helen Mirren). But the omission of their daughter Patricia, who is in Psycho, gives a fairly clear indication that there’s a manipulation of real events to fit a theme. Add to that some rather clunky suggestions that Psycho allows Hitch to express his own homicidal impulses and we start heading towards trite pop psychology. This tells us little about the man, his work or his enduring collaborative relationship with Alma.
And as for the scenes that recreate the shooting of what Hitchcock later described as ‘pure film’, the few moments of genuinely fascinating detail (never mind the shower scene, it was also the first film to show a toilet flushing) make it even more disappointing. It all subsumes into such a corny and reductive ‘love story’.
Psycho is filled with such icons of terror – that goose bump inducing house on the hill – that it’s simply baffling that more is not made of them.
Overall Hitchcock is still entertaining enough in an undemanding TV movie sort of way. But your time is probably better spent rewatching the “nice, clean, nasty piece of work” that begat it.