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REVIEW: Hitchcock (12A)
IT’S a truth universally acknowledged in movieland that film projects often come in pairs.
So, just as Toby Jones – who suffered a similar fate when he played Truman Capote after Philip Seymour Hoffman – gave us his Hitchcock in The Girl at Christmas, now we have Anthony Hopkins’ version.
The latter Welsh knight of the realm has been transformed into the legendary English director – who never won an Oscar - with the aid of outstanding prosthetics for Sacha Gervasi’s film based on Stephen Rebello’s Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of Psycho.
The focus is on 1959, the year leading up to the cinematic release of the legendary chiller and we first encounter a man unloved by the money-hungry studios, who are keen to avoid “another Vertigo” - a film which was, incidentally, recently voted the best of all time in a Sight and Sound poll.
Searching for a “nice clean nasty little piece of work” as a new project, he comes upon the novel Psycho, and decides it’s the ticket, convincing his devoted wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) – an assistant director, screenwriter and editor in her own right - in the process.
Despite her concerns , which extend to the financial given that the couple must risk their own money to make the film, she, as ever, trusts her husband’s talent and his need to pursue beautiful young women as his stars. In this case, that means Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson, who doesn’t have a lot to do).
But the film’s production, combined with his own issues with food and alcohol addiction and Alma’s blossoming friendship with Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), proves rather more of a test than either of them could have imagined. And that’s not even considering the awful power of the Motion Picture Production Code, which threatens Hitch with cuts to his shower scene.
Hitchcock is an occasionally slight, but entertaining look at a dislikeable genius, with attractive production design to bring the era to life.
Hopkins, despite losing the accent occasionally, presents a pretty repellent man, letching over young girls and masticating with relish as he raids the fridge. Mirren is much too pretty for Alma, but brings her natural authority to the fore throughout, especially in a scene where she’s forced to bring the set to order.
The genius of Hitchcock is not in doubt, but what’s very clear – and was also apparent in The Girl - is that he had deeply troubled relationships with women.
Despite relying heavily both Alma and his secretary, Peggy (Toni Collette), he was cruel and manipulative, referenced in this film by his treatment of Vera Miles, who he believed had betrayed him by getting pregnant.
Gervasi’s decision to include dream sequences wherein Hitch is haunted by serial killer Ed Gein is a misstep but the inherent drama of the real events carries this one through to the neat conclusion which reveals that Hitch wasn’t just a genius behind the lens, but one who knew how to whip up publicity, too.