Hitchcock, the biopic of the legendary director, tears a chapter from cinema history and explores the tumultuous life of the man during the production of his seminal movie, Psycho but unintentionally, Hitchcock adopts the fragmented nature of the fictional Norman Bates, attempting to reconcile two personalities with limited success.
Staggering under the weight of the illustrious name of the great director, it concedes to the new generation of viewers by providing an unnecessary ‘Hitchcock 101’ but narratively, attempts to craft a serious expose of Hitchcock’s ‘dark side’, but ultimately detracts from it with soap-opera domestic dramas. What we’re left with is, I admit, still a wonderfully entertaining portrait of the legendary director, but a story that is light, frivolous and lacks the gravitas that should be afforded such an influential subject.
The narrative detours around the filmmaking process of Psycho, reducing one of the greatest cinematic productions to an afterthought in the wake of Hitchcock’s trouble relationship with his wife, Alma. The scenes ‘on set’ remain the most enjoyable moments from the film, entertaining and informative at the same time, and allowing the audience the quiet, smug satisfaction the dramatic irony of the situation affords. Re-watching the trailer above, it’s evident the film had aspirations to be the great ‘story of Psycho’ but has lost its way in the process. Coupled with Gervasi’s direction, which is far too light-handed and oversimplified, to really dredge the depths of Hitchcock’s character. We are treated to slightly contrived set pieces, such as an hallucinatory Ed Gein, the monster who inspired the original Psycho novel, to appear in order to articulate the darker side of human nature.
For all its sins, the film is buoyed by fantastic performances across the board. There is unparalleled joy at witnessing Anthony Hopkins in the role of Hitchcock, exuding a combination of charm, wit and torment but one can’t help but wish there was some residual Hannibal Lector lurking in the recesses of his performance. Helen Mirren continues to turn in faultless performances and while her narrative is, arguably, an unnecessary distraction you would not want the film without her. She provides a sensational foil to Hopkins’ Hitchcock, dishing out witticisms and scathing criticisms with equal fervour.
Johansson, Biel and the eerily well-cast James D’Arcy are hugely entertaining masquerading as their classical predecessors, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and Anthony Perkins, and while ‘on set’ continue to spark with each and every other cast member producing some of the best scenes in the movie.
Overall it’s a highly enjoyable film, and I cannot stress that enough, however one can’t help feel disappointed that this is ‘the’ film to venerate the production of Psycho and the work of one of cinema’s most influential directors. It fails to capture the essence of Hitchcock, and with a little too much frivolity, the great director feels reduced to the status of a half-baked fictional character. However for many, the uneven tonality will create a fun and interesting viewing experience and a wonderful introduction to the master of suspense.
Hitchcock is out today in the UK. If you’ve seen it then let us know your thoughts!