In the year 1959, the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock is just celebrating the success of the spy thriller North by Northwest. As he steps out of the premiere, he’s asked by a reporter “You’re the most famous director of the medium, but your sixty years old. Shouldn’t you quit while you’re ahead?” Instead of taking the comment to heart, he becomes eager to come up with something different for his next project. He soon gets his hands on Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho, a story loosely based on the horrendous crimes of Ed Gein. The subject matter is shocking and gruesome so it’s easy to understand why he was met with immediate and cold rejection from Paramount Pictures. Hitchcock was determined to make Psycho even if it meant making it on his own dollar. Thus begins Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock, an adaptation of Stephen Rebello’s book Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho. The book tells the true story of the director’s battle to shock the world.
The book gives a bold and observant look in Hollywood as a business and the fascinating production of Psycho. The film, however, still provides a glimpse into classic Hollywood but ends up focusing much of the running time outside of the set and into the suffering marriage of a tamer Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and his long time collaborator and wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). Known for hiring beautiful starlets to star in his films, Alfred Hitchcock hires Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) to portray Marion Crane. Alma is very aware of Alfred’s fascination with Janet and because of his fascination, begins to consider having an affair with her writing partner Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston). Alfred soon becomes suspicious of Alma and suspects her infidelity. This obviously causes constant tension between the two of them as he struggles with censorship and the studio.
Instead of exploring the bizarreness of the infamous director, Gervasi provides a lighter glimpse into Hitchcock’s personal life. As enthusiasts of the director and his work would tell you, Hitchcock was often fascinated and aroused by the young actresses in his films. Although his fascination is certainly hinted at in the film, it’s only hinted at subtly. If only the curtain would’ve been peeled back a little further, the strange qualities of his personality would’ve provided an interesting dynamic to the film and the character. An interesting aspect of the film was Hitchcock’s imaged meetings with serial killer Ed Gein. Although it started off as interesting and different, it became a bit repetitive as the narrative of the film moved forward.
British actor James D’Arcy, who perfectly portrays Anthony Perkins, shows up briefly for a couple of scenes. Ralph Macchio (yes, the karate kid) portrays Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano but is only shown for a whopping total of a minute and is never seen again. Even Jessica Biel, who portrays Vera Miles, was given very limited screen time. As an enthusiast of Hitchcock’s work, especially Psycho, I would’ve greatly appreciated more scenes of the production.the film spends way too much time off of the set. There was a great opportunity to showcase more of the actual production of Psycho but scenes on set were very sporadic and felt like the entire production aspect unfortunately served as a backdrop to the conflict. Hitchcock isn’t a total failure because there are moments that were astounding. To provide just a few examples, the scene when the infamous shower murder scene was recreated was great because it is this scene when Anthony Hopkins portrayed Alfred Hitchcock as maniacal because of his frustration. As history proves, the hand holding the knife in the shower scene is actually the hand of Alfred Hitchcock himself.
Anthony Hopkins gave a subtly creepy performance but I felt it wasn’t an Oscar-worthy performance. There is one particular scene where I was mesmerized by his performance. The scene is near the end of the film as Hitchcock waits in the lobby during the premiere of Psycho. He patiently waits and occasionally peaks into the crack of the theater doors to observe the audience. As the iconic score during the shower sequence erupts, the audience screams in terror. Hitchcock then moves to the rhythm of the score, knowing in that very moment that Psycho was a success after all. Helen Mirren is also especially good as Alma Reville, a woman who wasn’t only married to the master of suspense but served as a collaborator for many of his films. Hitchcock is nowhere near a perfect film but despite its flaws and lighter tone, there are moments that are worth going a little mad over.
Hitchcock – 7/10