Last year saw two films about Alfred Hitchcock. While many who knew Hitch reviled BBC’s The Girl, the more successful Hitchcock seems almost too clean and admiring. Never mind. This film has a dream cast, and it provides a look into the life of one of history’s great directors, and the making of the most influential thriller of the twentieth century.

Title: Hitchcock

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Sacha Gervasi
Written by John J. McLaughlin
Based on Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello

Cast
Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock
Helen Mirren as Alma Reville
Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh
Danny Huston as Whitfield Cook
Toni Collette as Peggy Robertson
Michael Wincott as Ed Gein
Jessica Biel as Vera Miles
James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins
Michael Stuhlbarg as Lew Wasserman
Ralph Macchio as Joseph Stefano
Paul Schackman as Bernard Herrmann
Richard Portnow as Barney Balaban

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb.

Available at in DVD/Blu-Ray combination or from Amazon Instant Video.

Premise:

Alfred Hitchcock struggles to make a movie no one in Hollywood wanted to support, while stress develops in his relationship with Alma Reville, his wife and collaborator.

High Points:

Several strong performances make the most of a script that, while frequently witty, might have been stronger. The banter between Mirren and Hopkins is hilarious. Scarlett Johansson channels Janet Leigh, though she might have been given more to do. Also underused: James D’Arcy as a barely-closeted Anthony Perkins.

Look for Hitchcock’s reaction to the audience when they watch Psycho‘s shower scene for the first time. I don’t know if it happened that way, but it’s a great bit, and highlights the director’s brilliance.

Low Point:

I’m baffled by a couple of choices made by the filmmakers.

The film emphasizes two subjects: Hitchcock’s relationship with his wife, and the struggle to make a movie, Psycho. Given these topics, I’m surprised by the complete absence of their daughter, Pat, who actually appears in Psycho.

Yet, at the same time, the film features several imaginary scenes between Hitch and a man who wasn’t present, Ed Gein. While Gein inspired Norman Bates, no one knows what to do with the imagined scenes, and they feel tacked-on and pointless.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 The film is a fairly pedestrian adaptation of material from a book.

Effects: 5/6 The effects consist of a low-budget but effective recreation of a past time and place, and the make-up used to give Hopkins something like Hitchcock’s distinctive profile. Though you’ll likely be aware of the make-up and fat suit, they work, certainly putting to shame the facial profiling of Cloud Atlas.

Production: 5/6 The film features several clever echoes of Hitchcock’s work, and a Danny Elfman score that evokes Psycho’s memorable soundtrack without merely copying it.

Acting: 6/6 See “High Points.”

Story: 4/6 We learn too little about these people, and the relationship pressures on the Hitchcock marriage end up seeming trite, and their resolution, predictable. I found myself wishing for a more thorough look at Psycho‘s history.

We have here a director at his height, able to make nearly any movie, and with a level of creative control not seen in his day. He chooses the one project that the studio cannot get behind, and which raises the censors’ ire. He must finance it himself and shoot on a far lower budget than he’s had in years.

Out of this adversity comes, arguably, his best work. The process might well serve as an instructive fable to present-day creative geniuses, who receive carte blanche after one success, and frequently produced substandard work

Film aficionados know Alfred Hitchcock. The rest of the world knows he made a movie called Psycho.

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 4/6.

In total, receives 31/42.