Hitchcock

Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock

“Hitchcock,” the new film about famed movie director Alfred Hitchcock, is a missed opportunity.  Here we have a movie with a good period feel that sports a talented cast nicely made up to look and act like the real life people that they are portraying.  What is missing is a compelling script, an omission that Mr. Hitchcock would never have tolerated, especially in a story about the making of his iconic movie “Psycho” (1960). 

To the casual observer “Psycho,” today, is synonymous with the name Hitchcock, shower scene and all.  At the time, however, “Psycho” was a real departure from the kinds of films that Hitchcock had been making up to that point.  For example, prior to “Psycho,” Hitchcock had made “North By Northwest,” a suspense film that contained a great deal of humor.  Now, with “Psycho,” Hitchcock was heading into territory that was darker and more grisly than his previous films.

“Hitchcock” could have been a nice behind the scenes account of what happened during the making of “Psycho,” which it does try to do, that is when it is not being sidetracked.  Rather than concentrating exclusively on the details of the “Psycho” production, “Hitchcock” turns instead into a rather pedestrian “jealous husband” scenario that we have seen a hundred times before. Hitchcock suspects that his wife and chief collaborator, Alma Reville, is cheating on him.  In a sense she is, as Alma is collaborating with writer Witfield Cook on a non-Hitchcock film behind her husband’s back.  We know this early on, but it takes way too long for Mr. Hitchcock to figure out what is happening.  The proceedings are not nearly as interesting as a scenario about the making of a seminal film, like “Psycho,” could have been.

The movie that “Hitchcock” most reminds me of is Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” (1994), an infinitely better look at a filmmaker and his work.   Granted, Ed Wood, as a filmmaker, is 180 degrees away from Hitchock.  Ed Wood is considered to have been the worst filmmaker ever.  However, what “Ed Wood,” the movie, accomplishes (and for which “Hitchcock” does not reach far enough) is that it uses meticulous re-creations of its subject’s films.  “Ed Wood” also has an over riding theme about the importance of artistic vision not being compromised.  While “Hitchcock” attempts to do these two things, it does not go all the way.  I wanted more on the making of “Psycho.”  There needed to be more re-creations of the film’s scenes plus details on what was happening while they were being shot.  Par for the course, “Hitchcock,” again, sort of does this, but not to the point it could have.

Parts of “Hitchcock” feel forced and merely there to move along the story.  For example the film claims that the first cut of “Psycho” was a bore until Alma Reville came along and “fixed” it.  I really doubt that this happened.   Hitchock was known for planning his films in advance to the point where they were essentially edited before they were even shot.  In addition, Hitchcock would have had Alma’s input throughout the initial editorial process.  Therefore this “Alma to the rescue” sequence feels like a false crisis in an attempt to give the story some heft.

There are story elements that go nowhere.  “Hitchcock” gives us the obligatory part about the eponymous director having a “thing” for blondes, but nothing comes of it story-wise.  There are dream sequences in which Hitchcock imagines himself with serial killer Ed Gein, whose crimes formed the basis for “Psycho.”  These scenes are grisly but do nothing to advance the story.

The film’s casting, however, is quite good.  As Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins is a bit cartoonish, but has the great director’s mannerisms.  Helen Mirren makes for a very strong and determined Alama Reville, while Scarlett Johansson is a dead ringer for Janet Leigh.  Jessica Biel is a convincing Vera Miles.  It is a pity that the script does not give them all more to do.

“Hitchcock,” director Sacha Gervasi, 2012,

Fox Searchlight Pcitures, 98 minutes, PG-13

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on November 27, 2012, in New and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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