Most of the ‘Rocky’ films run on a simple formula. Rocky cannot win a boxing match unless he knows that Adrian loves him. ‘Hitchcock’ applies the same formula to a small portion of the life of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) during the making of ‘Psycho’.
Director Sacha Gervasi and screenwriter John L. McLaughlin presents itself as a glimmer of the life of a great filmmaker. The battle to get ‘Psycho’ made is interesting and Gervasi certainly uses the preconceived notion of history’s outcome with the film to give Hitch the upper hand. Everyone is predicting failure and there are a series of boardroom confrontations where for a brief moment there are genuine insights into what drove Alfred Hitchcock to make ‘Psycho’.
Once the film starts to reenact the making of ‘Psycho’ it’s a series of appearances by actors that kind of look like the stars of the film that include Scarlet Johansson as (kind of) Janet Leigh, James D’Arcy as (sort of) Anthony Perkins and Jessica Biel as (huh?) Vera Miles. The great film is reduced to a series of moments that riff on what makes ‘Psycho’ famous such as the shower scene. It feels like walking through a big budget Hitchcock themed wax museum. Gervasi tries to find depth in a dreamscape where Alfred Hitchcock interacts with the mass murderer who inspired the novel ‘Psycho’, Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) but it only highlights the absence of an actual proper film about Gein’s life.
The focus for a majority of the film switches from the making of ‘Psycho’ and onto the marriage between Hitchcock and Reville. Gervasi and McLaughlin bounce the relationship between a marital sitcom where they volley one-liners off each other and the melodrama of forbidden love that threatens to pull the pair apart. Mirren is superb when worn down by the temperament of her husband. Her portrayal of Reville and the love and admiration she has for Alfred Hitchcock is genuine. Hopkins performs well buried under prosthetics that at times look like a jellybean after whirl in a microwave. With such a small section of Alfred Hitchcock’s life to work with, his characterisation languishes as McLaughlin’s script demands he tackle a myriad of issues ranging from binge eating, his odd and slightly obsessive relationship with leading ladies, his wife, mother issues, money woes and creative struggles.
The parallels between a failing marriage and languishing movie production become clear and it is make or break for both. Emotional wounds must be healed before ‘Psycho’ can become the great film we know it will become. As all the pieces begin to fall into place the only thing missing is Hitch yelling from a crowd at a film premiere “YO ALAMA! I LOVE YOU!” ‘Hitchcock’ is one big marriage counseling session set within the walls of the making of ‘Psycho’.
The Popcorn Junkie
‘Hitchcock’ is released:
8 February 2013 UK