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Dan's Review: Hitchcock

The true story behind the most celebrated horror film of all time.
Hitchcock (Fox Searchlight)

Rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content and thematic material.

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Wincott, Jessica Biel, James D'Arcy, Richard Portnow, Kurtwood Smith, Ralph Macchio, Kai Lennox, Tara Summers, Wallace Langham.

Written by John J. McLaughlin, based on the book by Stephen Rebello.

Directed by Sacha Gervasi.

GRADE: A-

REVIEW:


More than a silhouette, Alfred Hitchcock made a name for himself as an innovator of suspense, mystery and horror films. Anyone who aspires to make a good suspense/mystery/horror movie usually measures their efforts against "Hitch." Movies about filmmakers can be a tough task, but Hitchcock, the true story of the famed director's production of Psycho delivers a compelling portrait of the man.

Anthony Hopkins stars as Hitchcock while Helen Mirren portrays his wife and collaborator Alma Reville. The story picks up in 1959 after the success of Hitchcock's North by Northwest, with the famed director looking for his next project. Despite several suggestions from Alma and his long-time personal assistant Peggy (Toni Collette) Hitchcock is unimpressed until he discovers the novel Psycho, written by Robert Bloch. Despite its grotesque content matter (based on the real-life Wisconsin murders of Ed Gein during the 1950s), Hitchcock is determined to make a film based on the book. In order to keep the plot and surprises from audiences, Hitchcock takes up a drive to buy every copy of the book as possible, one of many stunts he would use to market the film.

Hitchcock runs into opposition from the studios over the film's racy and gory subject 0matter, He also runs into censors who do not approve of anything involving the knife murder of nude woman in a shower. Casting is another obstacle for the director who eventually settles on Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) as Marion Crane, Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) as Lila Crane and Anthony Perkins (James D'Arcy) as Norman Bates. The studios also refuse to finance the film, forcing Hitchcock to put up his own money, resulting in a restricted budget (around $800,000). The filming is also relegated to a side lot at Universal Studios.

As Psycho's filming and production proceed, Albert and Alma's relationship is tested. Alma is weary of Albert's voyeuristic tendencies, while Albert suspects his wife is carrying on an affair with scribe Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston). As principle photography draws to an end, Albert seeks out Alma's help to complete the project as the studios threaten to withhold release of the film (not to mention the censors, who still object to the famous shower scene among other things in the movie).

Hitchcock is an enjoyable film that gives a new perspective into the making of Psycho and the personal life of the director. Hitchcock is anchored by a commanding performance from Hopkins, who despite having obvious differences in appearance with the famed director - creates the illusion of being the real Hitch. Mirren is equally impressive as Alma, and gives character to a little-know woman who was so very important to Hitch.

Despite its dramatic premise, Hitchcock is presented in a delightful format, in a manner its namesake would approve. At the beginning and end of movie, Hopkins appears as Hitchcock would on his TV show - offering humorous and cryptic thoughts on Ed Gein (played by Michael Wincott) and the murderous inspiration for the novel and movie. As the credits roll, the famous music used by Hitch in his TV series plays as well.

Hitchcock is a very good film with great performances that most adults will enjoy. One slight drawback is Danny Huston's character, which seems a little distracting. Still, if you love and reverr Psycho, Hitchcock will provide a lot of perspective into what it took to create such a classic.


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