Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Hitchcock is based on Stephen Rebello's book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho" and is mainly based on the relationship and love between Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville. The film focuses on Hitch's attempt to make is now renowned, slasher introducing masterpiece Psycho (1960) after the immense success of the Cary Grant led North by Northwest (1959). Paramount studios did not want to make a movie that was loosely based on Wisconsin serial killer and eerily mother dependent Ed Gein. Hitchcock, played by a delightful Anthony Hopkins, is influenced by Robert Bloch's book "Psycho," that told of Ed Gein's murders and mental instabilities. At first, his wife Alma, played by the always riveting Helen Mirren, is skeptical, but supports her husbands desire to make this book into a film. The Hitchcock's decide to finance the film themselves and deviate from there expensive lifestyle to produce and make this movie.
The cast of characters put together in this film is marvelous. The sly and romantic Danny Huston plays writer Whitfield Cook, a screenwriter on Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950) and Strangers on a Train (1951), who also persuades and is a possible love interest to Alma and instigator of Hitch's dark insecurities. Scarlett Johansson, who plays Janet Leigh and is funny, lively and its without a doubt one of her better performances in recent years. Well, for me its the best and least annoying acting she has done since Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation (2003). There is also the dependable and really excellent Michael Stuhlbarg as Hitch's agent Lew Wasserman, Toni Collette as his sarcastic secretary Peggy, Jessica Biel as actress Vera Miles and James D'Arcy, who doesn't have much screen time but nails his role as Anthony Perkins, who played Norman Bates in Psycho. My favorite performance comes from the understated and crackly voiced Michael Wincott, who turns in a disturbing appearance as Ed Gein. The acting is great from this insanely talented cast, but the film is owned by the leads, Hopkins and Mirren. They bring so much discipline, history and experience to these legendary figures of movie lore and make you become engrossed in the lives of these two individuals. They encapsulate the roles of Hitch and Alma with gravitas and humor that eases the film along at a funny and intense pace.
Hitchcock is a film that through trailers and TV spots made the film feel like it was going to be an almost documentary, historical account of the making of Psycho, but this film at its core is a love story. A love story about two friends, spouses, collaborators and obsessives. The relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock, even though Alma kept her maiden name of Reville, is about Hitch's, and yes, he liked being called "Hitch," hold the "cock" as his joke goes, insecurities toward woman, sex, his physical appearance, and Alma's love, misery and support through the tough and happy times. Alma, in the movie, sacrificed all of there sophisticated lifestyle to make Psycho, which was such a huge success, Hitch's biggest, but in reality it was there success. Without Alma, there wouldn't have been the master Alfred Hitchcock. She helped make and, this is not to diminish the immense talent, craft and wisdom of the "Master of Suspense," but she made sure the script was smooth and flowing, the editing was where it needed to be and if music was necessary in a spot to effect the overall affect of the scene, she was there with the correct advice. Hitchcock was an intense director who knew how to push the right buttons with his actors, as a scene with Johansson's Leigh expresses, and made stars out of his trademark blonde's, but was also undeniably funny and was always telling jokes and riddles on set. Sacha Gervasi gracefully catches these two parables of Hitch's filmmaking and relationship with Alma, along with a sustained and acute score from Danny Elfman, a fluid script from John J. McLaughlin and, as usual, crisp and beautiful lensing and cinematography from Jeff Cronenweth.
Sacha Gervasi's Hitchcock is a satisfying film, especially being shot in just over a month and put through and finished post production in early October. It is not a wildly innovative or knockout film that completely blowed me away, but it felt like a pleasurable account of the relationship, personalities and love between Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Reville during the making of Psycho. Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are at the top of there game and give nuanced, grand performances as the legendary couple. The mix of humor and drama, well, heavily the film is heavy on the humor side, gives a very slight view into the minds and acts of Mr. and Mrs. Hitchcock. Sacha Gervasi, in his first narrative feature, has developed a successful film that is a pleasure to watch for any fan of Alfred Hitchcock and of cinema.