Movie Review: “Hitchcock” – Hopkins is The Master of Suspense

Written by Emily McWilliams December 16, 2012

Biopics can either be fantastic (“Walk The Line”) or absolutely dreadful (last year’s Eastwood/DiCaprio collaboration “J. Edgar”).  Around awards season, biopics seem to flood the theatres, because if done well, they will surely garner nominations and maybe even some awards.  But how does one make a biopic about one of world’s most famous and celebrated directors, Alfred Hitchcock?  The very idea of it seems almost blasphemous.  Thankfully, relatively new director Sacha Gervasi presents a compelling and tasteful look into the life of the notorious director in the movie “Hitchcock”, by framing the narrative around the making of his smash-hit, “Psycho”.  The film is supported by a stellar cast that features Anthony Hopkins as the portly director, Helen Mirren as his whip-smart wife, and Scarlett Johansson as scream-queen Janet Leigh.  “Hitchcock” is not a perfect movie, but the performances and attention to detail in recreating the 1960’s make this a strong awards season contender.

An Inside Look at the Making of “Psycho”

Coming off of the success of “North by Northwest”, Hitchcock is looking for an idea for his next feature film.  He stumbles upon the novel “Psycho”, and is immediately engrossed in it.  He knows that this will be his next picture and tells his assistant to buy out all the near-by copies so that no one will know the ending before the premiere of his film.  The executives at Paramount and the censorship board are less than thrilled with Hitchcock’s latest idea.  In order to make the movie, Hitchcock and his closest collaborator, his wife, Alma, must remortgage their house and finance the film themselves.  As filming starts, Hitchcock is under pressures from the studio, and takes out his frustration on Alma.  Alma, who has supported Hitchcock productions since the first feature, is tired of being pushed out of the spotlight and begins another film project with a writer friend.  As Hitchcock films his masterpiece, his perfect life at home begins falling apart.


Hopkins and Mirren are Strong Award Contenders

The performances from Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are nothing less than sublime.  Dialogue between these two fires back and forth at quick and humorous pace that allows for affectionate undertones to shine through.  The term “old married couple” is used a lot, but in this case, the term applies fittingly.  Alma Reville was working in the industry before her husband, and she helped him on all of his films, until she was satisfied.  Alma was the woman behind the man, a role that was frustrating at times, but one she accepted to help her husband become a success.  These nuances of the relationship were perfectly communicated through Hopkins’ and Mirren’s performances.

“Hitchcock” Recreates the 1960’s

The film also offers a behind the scenes look at Hollywood in the 1960’s.  The costumes and hairstyles were spot-on, giving “Hitchcock” a sense of authenticity.  The process of making “Psycho”, from casting Janet Leigh to making the film acceptable to the censorship boards were all shown in the movie realistically to the actual experience of Hitchcock making his most famous movie.

But Where’s the Suspense?

Where “Hitchcock” falters is in its structure.  Of course, going in to the film most audience members probably already know the outcome – that “Psycho” was Hitchcock’s biggest success.  Despite that, the other aspects of the plot played out a little too predictably and neatly for a film about the master of suspense.  Gervasi attempts a number of visual and dramatic experiments to differentiate this movie from other biopics (some that work and some that don’t), but in the end, the dialogue is a little too sentimental and the ending feels like it should be wrapped up with a big red bow – something that Hitchcock himself would probably despise.

“Hitchcock” is a compelling look at one of the legends of filmmaking.  The strong cast hold the film up when the plot and structure begin to sag, making this a strong contender for upcoming acting awards.  This is a film for any Hitchcock fan or cinephile to check out because of its insightful look of the film production process.

My Rating: 7.5/10


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