Friday, December 21, 2012


"Hitchcock" could be re-titled "Mrs. Hitchcock" as a lot of the movie's emphasis and intrigue comes from the famed director's loving, dedicated but ultimately frustrated and fed-up wife, Alma Reville. She helps her husband on almost every picture he makes and yet gets pushed to the side when it's time for his limelight. So, while basing its premise on the inception and creation of the high watermark of his career, "Psycho," the drama comes from the troubled side of the Hitchcock marriage and creative collaboration.

Helen Mirren stuns as Alma, especially in a bold moment of confrontation to her obsessive and unwittingly neglectful husband. She's married to a man who becomes possessed by his films, especially his blonde bombshell leading ladies he wishes to turn into stars. For "Psycho," he turns to Janet Leigh (a charming and radiant Scarlett Johansson) who, in the shooting of the pivotal shower scene, sees Hitchcock's dark recesses come to light as he jabs a knife toward her to elicit real terror in her reaction. The other lead is Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), an actress Hitchcock wanted as his muse, but she chose the life of a housewife over him reaping her with fame and fortune.

The ensemble cast comes into play when Hitchcock places the idea of "Psycho" as his next picture to his agent (Michael Stuhlbarg), personal assistant (Toni Collette), the Paramount studio head (Richard Portnow) who is hesitant to finance him and the ratings board (Kurtwood Smith) who threatens to not release the film in theaters due to its content. It's a fun, colorful cast that introduces a level of soapy drama through fellow Hitchcock collaborator and writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) who is slyly trying to take not only the limelight away from the director -- but also maybe even his wife.

The movie gets a little wrongheaded when it tries a tongue-and-cheek tone to mirror a classic Hitchcock style of suspense complete with moody and tension-building music. And yet these dashes of faux horror suspense are created out of marital dispute and inadvertently flatten the level of drama created by the actors. Ultimately, Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of the director comes off as too campy, cheeky and more of a caricature than a real man -- which isn't so much the fault in his acting but the wonky screenplay. This most notably comes through when the actor breaks the third wall addressing the audience as Hitchcock. It could've been a deeper film about the heartbreak, sacrifice and ultimate triumph of manifesting "Psycho," but instead it's only entertaining, surface-level fare.

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