Friday, November 09, 2012

“Hitchcock” – Movie Review



This week, after a temporary break following Hurricane Sandy, my movie class resumed with a screening of the biographical drama “Hitchcock”, starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson.  


When Alfred Hitchcock decides upon making “Psycho” as his next movie, the studio balks and he is forced to finance the production himself – but will the financial and emotional stress cause his long-time marriage to end?


By the end of the 1950’s, film director Alfred Hitchcock (Hopkins) has amassed so many suspenseful movies in his oeuvre that he has become a legend. However, the big secret that most people don’t know is that the key to his success has been his wife Alma (Mirren), to whom he has been devoted for many years. With filmmaking expertise known to Hitchcock long before they were married, Alma is a capable screenwriter and editor, among many other talents. Although they mutually agreed she would never get a credit on any of Hitchcock’s movies, they both knew that the true genius of the Hitchcock films did not originate from a single voice.

Paramount Pictures, the motion picture studio to which he is under contract, has been urging Hitchcock to make his next movie identical to one of his previous hits. Hitchcock, however, saw himself as a creative artist and had no interest in making cookie cutter movies. Fearing that at the age of 60 his best work may be behind him, Hitchcock undertook a search for an exciting new project that would be different from anything else he had ever worked on before. Coming upon a book titled “Psycho”, Hitchcock found the real-life story of a transvestite mama’s boy serial killer to be compelling; informing the studio that his next picture would be based on this book, they quickly declined, citing that its subject matter would be too controversial with no chance to get passed the censors, much less be a commercial success.

Believing in his ability to make a truly great movie out of this story, Hitchcock decided to mortgage his house and finance the project with the $800,000 he was given by the bank. Paramount agreed to this and would only act as distributors of the film. Meanwhile, Alma is feeling increasingly marginalized in Hitchcock’s life and winds up seeking the attention of a well-known writer who beseeches her to help adapt a screenplay from his latest novel. But are his interests in Alma strictly professional or backed with a hidden agenda of romantic intentions? With possible designs on his stunningly beautiful leading lady Janet Leigh (Johansson), both Hitchcock and Alma now suspect each other of infidelity. Suddenly fearing Hitchcock may have lost his touch in filmmaking, tempers erupt between not only Hitchcock and Paramount, but also between Hitchcock and Alma. Will “Psycho” be the end of both Hitchcock’s career and marriage?


While the movie “Hitchcock” is at times just as amusing and entertaining as its true-life subject, it contains a certain degree of whimsy, which, for me, does not always help. The story is sometimes told with a smirk – occasionally to its detriment, I believe; for example, its opening and closing is bookended by Hopkins doing the version of Hitchcock from his famous old TV show, “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”; so, if you are familiar with that classic, you will likely get a good laugh from those scenes. Hopkins’ performance is at certain times hindered by his all-too-obvious make-up and other times attributable to his own undoing – he occasionally slips in and out of character, in some scenes sounding more like himself than Hitchcock.

Among the highlights were Hopkins’ co-star Helen Mirren as Hitchcock’s wife Alma. Mirren gave a terrific performance; while Hitchcock appeared as something of a caricature, Alma came across as a real multi-dimensional human being, with all the associated attributes that naturally brings. Johansson – while smokin’ hot – was merely some very lovely eye-candy, despite playing an essential role in both movies.

Based on what we are told in the movie, Hitchcock and Alma appeared to be more of a professional partnership than a marriage since romance seems to be absent from the relationship. The depiction of their relationship was that Alma was just as responsible for Hitchcock’s success as he was because of her own talents. One area where Hitchcock may have not gotten enough credit was for his marketing savvy – he was able to build suspense about the movie going experience as well as the film itself.

Ultimately, “Hitchcock” might have been better off as a made-for-TV movie – and likely would’ve been, if no stars had been attached to the project, which is apparently what justifies this as being a theatrical release. I might’ve enjoyed the film a bit more if it had been done on HBO to pair with their recent production of “The Girl”, which focused on Hitchcock’s obsession with Tippi Hedren , star of “The Birds”.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!