Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hitchcock

Directed by Sacha Gervasi.
2012. Rated PG-13, 98 minutes.
Cast:
Michael Stuhlbarg
James D’Arcy
Michael Wincott
Richard Portnow
Kurtwood Smith
Ralph Macchio


After reading a novel inspired by the exploits of real life serial killer Ed Gein entitled “Psycho,” director Alfred Hitchcock (Hopkins) is so enthralled he decides that he must immediately adapt it to film. He forges ahead despite the fact he won’t get any help from his bosses at Paramount and will have to finance it himself. Not only do the powers that be not believe in the project, they have their doubts about Hitch, as well. After all, he’s never done a horror flick to that point. The only person in his corner is his wife Alma (Mirren) who has worked alongside him on everything he’s ever done. She even agrees to let him mortgage their home to pay for the movie without any objection. However, having been together for thirty plus years, their relationship appears to be circling the drain. The movie proceeds to give us a way behind the scenes look at the making of Psycho.

Anthony Hopkins is in rare form as the iconic director. From everything I’ve ever seen of the real Hitchcock, Hopkins has his mannerisms and speech down cold. He also manages to go beyond just being a surface imitation and gives us a real sense of the man’s ego, dismissiveness of those he has no use for, possessiveness of those he does, and the fragility beneath it all. Many of his most heartfelt moments are when he says nothing at all. It helps tremendously that his leading lady is just as good. Actually, I’d rater her work just a slim shade below his, but only because she isn’t hamstrung by having to replicate her character’s physicality. In any case, it’s another strong performance in a career filled with them.

Hitchcock is also visually strong, but in subtle ways. These are nods to the man’s work and likeness sprinkled throughout the movie. Perhaps most noticeable are the several prominent shots of our hero’s shadow. He is the rare icon you’re likely to recognize quicker by his silhouette than his face. Another obvious thing is the famous peep hole from Psycho. Due to implications of it being put to use in the real world makes it even more disturbing here than in the horror classic.


With those good things comes some not-so-good things. Chief among these are the nightmares and daydreams Hitchcock has about Ed Gein. I gather they’re intended to give us some insight on Hitch’s mental state at various points during the production of Psycho. All they really do is interrupt the flow of the movie to pointlessly inject horror flick elements. It’s a misguided attempt at showing a man at war with himself. The effort put in here would have been better spent focusing on his battle with the bottle as it sets up to. He’s seen drinking at all times of the day, but only passing mention is made of this.

The most serious problem is that this movie is lacking any suspense whatsoever. This is ironic since our hero is known as the master of that very thing. I understand that creating some is probably an impossible task with regards to how Psycho plays out, but there is none in the lesser known aspects of the story that have nothing to do with the movie. This is most evident on Alma’s excursions with Whitfield (Huston), a writer who not only wants Hitch to film one of his scripts, but seems to have a thing for Alma. The way it’s written we never feel he’s a real threat to their marriage, yet she acts as if it is because the plot needs her to. I’ve no idea how any of this played out in real life, but it’s not handled well here.

The subpar storytelling overwhelms the performances of the two leads, rendering everything we like about the movie merely superficial. Yes, watching Hopkins and Mirren is nice, as are the numerous nods to the man that inspired this production. Everything else is either cliché or just plain botched. We’re left with a film with clever little touches, but is unable to sufficiently pull us into the story.

MY SCORE: 5.5/10

2 comments:

  1. Good review Wendell. A little light on its feet given who the subjects are, but it was still pleasant enough for an enjoyable, if not entirely memorable watch.

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  2. Light on its feet is a very good way to put it. Thanks.

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