If you’re looking for some in-depth, behind-the-scenes glimpse at the inner workings of Alfred Hitchock’s creative genius during the process of making PSYCHO, you’re not really going to get it from Sacha Gervasi’s sanitized biopic of sorts, HITCHCOCK. What you will get though is a delightfully fun and entertaining examination of the legendary director’s relationship with wife Alma Reville during the period of the film’s production and how the dark places Hitchcock’s mind would have to go in telling PSYCHO’s story credibly would steer his own sense of paranoia about Alma’s dealings with other Hollywood players. It’s as if the making of PSYCHO only serves as a backdrop for this tumultuous period in their marriage , which is rather unfortunate, because as good as it is to watch Sir Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren play off each other in their respective roles, it would have been a bit more rewarding to witness how PSYCHO managed to come together as the classic it’s regarded to be, as the obstacles and pressure mounted against it even being made at the time.
Coming off the success of NORTH BY NORTHWEST, naturally Hollywood wants more of the same from Alfred Hitchcock, even if after 46 pictures, you’d think he’d have earned the right to explore his storytelling and filmmaking ability by doing something different. By different, he doesn’t mean THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK or CASINO ROYALE, films he passed on because… well, is there anything about either of those two properties that screams Hitchcock. He wants something that will challenge him and that audiences will never see coming from him, ultimately settling on the choice to adapt Robert Bloch’s novel that was loosely based on the serial killer Ed Gein. Hitchcock is energized by what could come from a director as good as he making a horror picture such as this, going so far as to even having all copies of Bloch’s book bought up off the shelves, not wanting any part of the film’s twists and turns to be revealed to the audience before they see it up on his screen. PSYCHO is his chance to feel free as an auteur again, instilling passion once more in his career, which is constantly being questioned by outsiders as if the man may have suddenly run out of good films to make, coming off one of the best in his catalog.
After absorbing incredible risk in a creative deal with Paramount to make the picture, HITCHCOCK only scratches the surface of the film’s actual making, breezing through the casting process in favor of Hopkins having imaginary conversations with a visualization of Ed Gein himself (Michael Wincott) as he begins to explore his own darkness as it relates to Alma, his sudden distrust of her and his belief that she may be unfaithful to him at the moment when he needs her support the most. Then again, what more can you expect from a film that absolutely flies by with a 98-minute running time? There’s just not enough time given to the story period, let alone some of its more intriguing aspects, such as Hitchcock’s feelings of betrayal by all the women in his life, especially Vera Miles (Jessica Biel, whose role is really underdeveloped in its greater importance to Hitchcock’s career). The amount of PSYCHO is truly lacking in HITCHCOCK to make any type of grandiose statement about the film’s place in history, which really should have been more of a focus of the film. But the witty and playfiul back and forth between Hopkins and Mirren who are absolutely fantastic together to save the movie from becoming a parody of Hitchcock’s PSYCHO process and shifting more towards an overall celebration of what it meant for his career that late in the game (Hitchcock would only go on to make six more films following PSYCHO), signifying that not only did he still have it, but he might actually be better than ever.
HITCHCOCK has the feel of an HBO film, although its style trumps its overall substance. The performances here are stellar with Toni Collette and Michael Stuhlbarg giving wonderful supporting turns as Peggy Robertson, Hitchcock’s trusted production assistant, and Lew Wasserman, his agent. And while I would have liked to learn something new about Hitchcock the director from his making of PSYCHO, HITCHCOCK brings about a bit more knowledge about Hitchcock the man and Alma Reville the woman. It’s not exactly the suspense of the trials and tribulations of the filmmaking business I would have preferred, but the fun quotient of watching the talented Hopkins and Mirren embody their historic counterparts makes HITCHCOCK light fare worth watching.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
Follow me on Twitter.
Like me on Facebook.