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Sunday, November 25, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW
Hitchcock

Making Horror From Scarred, Paranoid Genius
 

Helen Mirren as Alma Reville and Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock in Sacha Gervasi's "Hitchcock".
Fox Searchlight Pictures

    

by
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Good e-ven-ing", intones the Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) early on in Sacha Gervasi's drama "Hitchcock", a forced film given more to camp and theatricality than deep exploration of Mr. Hitchcock's fears, desires and obsessions.  Well, check that.  One obsession which "Hitchcock" does reasonably well to show is the famous British director's missive to complete his iconic 1960 film "Psycho", a tortuous adventure that affected his health and caused consternation with Paramount Pictures.

Mr. Hitchcock is shown as meticulous, paranoid and haunted by the true story of Ed Gein, the Wisconsin serial killer.  Beginning with a predictable scene involving Mr. Gein in 1944, "Hitchcock" becomes a showcase of in-joke for the legend's enthusiasts and parody for everyone else.  The heart of the film doubles as Mr. Gein's reality horror giving birth to Mr. Hitchcock's torment and machinations for the film version of Robert Bloch's book Psycho, or vice versa.  Scenes of Mr. Gein and Mr. Hitchcock as kindred spirits in isolation and pain feel more like desperate sledgehammers flailing at an audience that is probably more sophisticated about the great filmmaker than Mr. Gervasi's film gives them credit for.  In all respects "Hitchcock" plays as absurdist comedy, and because it does any attempt to seriously unearth some of the complexity of Mr. Hitchcock for the audience arrives too little, too late.

If the heart of "Hitchcock" is Mr. Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter-like enunciations and the title character's idiosyncrasies, fixations on blonde leading ladies (like Janet Leigh, played here uncannily by Scarlett Johansson) and addiction to booze, the soul of Mr. Gervasi's romp is Alma Reville, Mr. Hitchcock's partner-in-crime, played with gusto and wicked bravado by Helen Mirren.  One notable scene featuring Ms. Mirren leaves the audience and the title character speechless.  Ms. Mirren is the lone bright, riveting spark of interest in a film that while heartily enjoyable and humorous never quite rises to the occasion the way it should.  The envy that Mr. Hitchcock has toward his wife, herself a very capable filmmaker and editor feeds into some of the psychosexual strains and appetites percolating in a number of his films.

There are affectionate nods to some of Mr. Hitchcock's other works, but his fascination with completing "Psycho", as well as the event atmosphere and showmanship that Mr. Hitchcock invested in the film, is its most enjoyable peak.  Still, it's too bad that with a strong cast and intriguing subject matter, that Mr. Gervasi and screenwriters John J. McLaughlin and Stephen Rebello couldn't have done more to elevate this average movie.  (Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Rebello based their script on Mr. Rebello's book Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of "Psycho".)

Even within the surface treatment of what could have been a fine film (listen to the interview with Patricia Hitchcock O'Connell, the director's daughter, on the "Psycho" DVD for great insights into the making of that film), if nothing else all "Hitchcock" will likely make you want to do (as it did me) was watch "Psycho" once again to appreciate its genius.

Also with: Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Michael Wincott, James D'Arcy, Jessica Biel, Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Portnow, Ralph Macchio.

"Hitchcock" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for some violent images, sexual content and thematic material.  The film's running time is one hour and 38 minutes.  

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