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Capone scares up a great deal of enthusiasm for making-of-PSYCHO tale HITCHCOCK!!!

Published at: Nov. 22, 2012, 2:43 p.m. CST by Capone

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

Unless I'm watching a documentary, I don't require 100 percent factual accuracy to enjoy a movie "based on a true story." For example, Ben Affleck readily admits that almost none of the elements that make the final airport scene in ARGO so great are even close to how things went down in real life. But the way he handles that sequence is damn-near cinematically perfect. Now we have HITCHCOCK, the telling of Alfred Hitchcock (played by Anthony Hopkins) and wife/creative partner Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) making arguably his most famous film, PSYCHO. I'm sure I believe that Hitchcock had an imaginary figure of serial killer Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) advising him on the tone of the film, but I have no trouble believing that the unique, mom-centric nature of Gein's crimes informed Hitchcock tremendously.

HITCHCOCK is a blast, even if it's 100 percent fiction, which it most certainly is not. The most frustrating thing about it is that Hopkins and Mirren have never worked together before, because clearly their admiration for each other and natural chemistry would have made them a perfect on-screen pairing for decades leading up to now. As much as I'd hate to limit the film's power to simply showing us the value of the woman behind the man, the best moments are when Reville's influence and nearly-always-correct evaluation of Hitchcock's projects, scripts, editing, etc. are clearly illustrated. It's almost difficult to imagine a time when Hitchcock would have ever had trouble getting a film made, but the material in Psycho was simply too shocking for even his most loyal creative partners. The best he could get is a distribution deal with Paramount, with him kicking in all money for production.

The true joy in HITCHCOCK is watching the actors re-create the prep work and production of PSYCHO. Scarlett Johansson is quite good as shower victim Janet Leigh, who is portrayed as a sensible woman who put being a wife and mother ahead of all else. But she also knew the honor of being a leading lady in a Hitchcock movie, despite his reputation for fixating on his blonde leading ladies such as Kim Novak and Gracy Kelly. It's clear that Reville loves the idea of murdering the leading lady 30 minutes into the film for more than just the shock value. Also surprisingly good is Jessica Biel play actress Vera Miles, a former object of Hitchcock's weird obsession who has fallen out of favor with the director but is still under contract with him for one more film. I may be in the minority on this, but I think James D'Arcy's take on Anthony Perkins--shown here struggling to find the right voice for Norman Bates--is fascinating and fairly dead-on.

Far less interesting is the material involving Alma and fellow writer (of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, among others) Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), who is attempting to make his own movies using Alma as a co-writer. There's more than a hint of potential romance between the two, but when Alma catches Cook with another woman, she might sympathize with her husband's infatuations a little bit more than before. For better or worse, her life outside of her work with Hitchcock (at least in this film) isn't nearly as interesting as when they are working or fighting or remembering how good they are as a team, personally and professionally.

HITCHCOCK was directed by Sacha Gervasi, who weirdly enough last gave us the fantastic documentary ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL. And that's all I can say about that because there's virtually nothing in common between the two films beyond their entertainment value. That being said, both films expose the tricky, often abrasive elements that fuel a creative partnership. As much as Hitchcock may have disrespected her as a wife, he always gave her absolute credit in their working relationship. Toss into the mix some nice supporting performance by Toni Collette and Michael Stuhlbarg, and you have yourself a fun little movie with modest ambitions and a few flaws that gives film buffs a peak behind the curtain and lesser film history lovers something that hopefully will spark an interest in checking about other works by Alfred Hitchcock. There are worse things, trust me.

-- Steve Prokopy
"Capone"
capone@aintitcool.com
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