Hitchcock-posterI was expecting something rather more…sordid than Hitchcock. The BBC/HBO film The Girl, about director Alfred Hitchcock’s obsession with star of The Birds Tippi Hedren is a dark examination of a depressed, unsatisfied man and his fixation with glamour. As such I assumed Sacha Gervasi‘s Hitchcock, the story of the making of legendary horror Psycho (1960) would approach the man in a similar way. In actuality Hitchcock is a rather bright and breezy affair that isn’t about the director himself, more the troubles of getting the iconic project off the ground.

Visually, the film is very nice. It’s draped in the bright technicolor and pastels that define many of that era’s films and it really matches the the tone of the film. It also stems from, and allows us to more easily accept one of the most enjoyable aspects of the movie.

The film has a great, laugh out loud, fourth wall breaking opening featuring Ed Gein and his brother. And its Gein we periodically return to, as Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) takes advice from the murderer during difficult situations. The idea of Gein being some kind of life coach is both amusing and unsettling giving us an interestingly presented view of how wrapped up with horror and murder the director’s mind is becoming. Its a great little device and really brings a fun yet weird cinematic edge the narrative, giving us moments of fantasy between the reality.

Not that the reality isn’t fascinating. This is film will hold substantial value for a cinephile, examining the battles and interesting tactics Hitchcock and Alma employed against bodies who would stop or censor them. For fans of classic horror it brilliantly communicates what makes horror filmmakers tick, the delight of scaring people and, in one notable scene, the musicality of horror as Hitch becomes a secret conductor of the shower scene in Psycho. But to the casual multiplex goer its still an interesting story of a couple risking it all on a project no one else believes in. Hitchcock’s real life fantasy affairs with his leading ladies is a nice character quirk and adds an entertaining level, if minor, tension to the chemistry between Hitchcock and his wife Alma (Helen Mirren).


Helen Mirren as Helen Mirren Playing Alma Hitchcock & Anthony Hopkins as Anthony Hopkins Playing Alfred Hitchcock

Buried under layers of latex Anthony Hopkins does a decent job as the director, but then he’s Anthony Hopkins, he always does at least a decent job. And while its fairly entertaining, especially in one scene as he delights to the screams of the audience at Psycho’s premiere, you’re always aware that it’s Hopkins under latex and a fat suit. This is problematic when it comes to playing the darker moments of his character. When Hopkins needs to showcase Hitchcock’s famously cruel and strange methods you don’t buy into it with the threat it deserves. The music, direction and camerawork, suggests Gervasi is stabbing at something a little more distressing, but because its Hopkins being so Hopkins, it just has the air of an eccentric man having a tantrum. It’s always ‘Hopkins doing Hitchcock’, never simply Hitchcock we’re watching.

Mirren, again, is subject to this strange duality: Mirren is always fun to watch and has the Denzel Washington-like ability to elevate weak material above itself (see RED). Here its true as well and it does distance us from the relationship.

Somehow outshining them both is Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh. Its a performance that nicely exhibits the a naivete of Leigh who’s oblivious to Hitchcock’s dubious intentions and actions. Her relationship with Vera Myles (Jessica Biel) also has a nice dynamic, with Myles representing perhaps an older version of what Leigh might become, wise to Hitchcock’s ways. There’s a sweetness and sincerity to Leigh that, while perhaps not being true to life, encapsulates the stereotypical character of actresses of the time.


That moment when the water suddenly goes cold

Hitchcock is by no means a great movie and it won’t stick with you weeks after you leave the cinema. It is however, a gently and pleasantly enjoyable drama with interesting characters in an interesting setting. Its just the uniformly light and humorous tone that prevents this from being something more. Probably more of a treat for cinephiles and particularly so to horror fans, its fourth wall breaking bookends, with a particularly good gag at the finish  make Hitchcock a fun way to kill a few hours.

By RJ Bayley.

Was there too much Hopkins and not enough Hitckcock? Let us know in the comments below!

You can follow RJ Bayley on twitter: @Chunder_thunder
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  1. […] start to finish, a delirious cocktail of insulting, lazy, stupid, pitiable and boring. It is, as Hitchcock would say, […]

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