“Hitchcock” is an astonishing portrait of one great filmmaker and the secret weapon behind his legendary films: his wife, Alma Reville.
Director Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” is a beautiful and genuine biopic of one of the most famous movie makers of all time. The film frames the few months of Hitchcock’s (Anthony Hopkins) life while he was filming “Psycho” in 1959.
Hitchcock had just finished “North by Northwest,” a multi-million dollar blockbuster hit, and was looking for his next project. He came across Robert Bloch’s novel “Psycho,” a thriller inspired by the murders and sadistic habits of brutal killer, Ed Gein. Hitchcock (known to many as Hitch) is consistently under pressure to surprise the audience, and he knew “Psycho” would do just that.
His wife Alma (Helen Mirren) isn’t completely sold on the idea of making “Psycho” into a film, but she knows if anyone can make it into a successful film, he can.
Paramount Pictures disagrees. They see “Psycho” as something that the audiences will hate based on the creepy source material. Hitch persuades them to let him finance the picture, even though the studio will release it.
Alma helps him cast the film, suggesting Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy) to play Norman Bates and Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) to play Marion Crane. Although Alma supports her husband, she is currently working on adapting another screenplay with friend Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), which takes up a lot of her time. When production for “Psycho” begins, Hitch realizes that making a movie isn’t as easy without the full support of his life-long partner.
“Hitchcock” is one of the year’s best films due to the incredible lead performances and John J. McLaughlin’s intriguing screenplay. The film is just as much a tribute to Hitchcock, as it is his wife. The same goes for Hopkins and Mirren: the film provides just as much of a showcase for Hopkins as it does for Mirren.
Hopkins gives one of the most memorable performances of his career in “Hitchcock.” Ten minutes in, I completely forgot I was looking at the man behind Hannibal Lecter. His make-up and mannerisms create an uncanny resemblance to the late filmmaker, and I was in awe for every second he was on-screen. An Oscar nomination, or even a win is richly deserved.
Everyone is talking up Hopkins’ performance in “Hitchcock,” but Mirren matches him in every way and she should be billed as “lead actress,” not “supporting.” Mirren is the perfect choice to play the role of Hitch’s strong-willed wife who politely hides in the shadows while her husband gets all the praise.
What’s brilliant about McLaughlin’s screenplay, (based on the book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello) is that it starts off focusing on Hitchcock as a man, and then transitions to the life of his wife and their marriage. We learn just how much Alma influenced his movies by assisting with the production, editing, screenplay and at times, direction. There is one particular scene in the film, where Alma gets fed up with Hitch’s demands and puts him in his place. The audience actually started clapping and cheering when she was finished, myself among them.
Johansson, D’Arcy and Jessica Biel, who plays Vera Miles, shouldn’t go unnoticed, either. Johansson captures the prim and proper Janet Leigh, who remained strictly professional while on set; D’Arcy, who looks almost exactly like Perkins, embodies the shy, innocent actor very well; and Biel portrays Miles with charisma and grace.
“Hitchcock” is an intriguing character study on the brilliant and quirky filmmaker and gives us an entertaining story on how his most famous film was made. Also, if you’ve never seen “Psycho,” you’ll want to as soon as you leave the theater.