Arguably one of the greatest filmmakers of all time is the subject of director Sacha Gervasi’s biographical film, Hitchcock. Delving into the idiosyncratic relationship between Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville, Gervasi gives an insight into the couple’s life during the filming of Psycho. With a quirky and never flinching view of their world we get a greater appreciation for the man and woman behind the infamous silhouette. Based on Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho written by Stephen Rebello, we are able to watch Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) at the height of his accomplishments and at the low point of his shaken confidence. The film opens with Hitchcock (preferring to be called Hitch) and Alma exiting the premier of North by Northwest. Hitchcock feels on top of the world, but that euphoria is soon dashed when he is asked by a reporter “why not quit while you’re still ahead?” Taking umbrage with Hitchcock’s age the young reporter is able to shake this titan of filmmaking to his core. This moment forces Hitch to re-examine what type of films he will do next, if any. Does he continue down the same path with guaranteed success or venture into the unknown? As with all of Hitch’s major choices in his career he turns to his confidant and wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). The two bantered back and forth until Hitch decides his next film will be Psycho, based loosely on the story of serial killer Ed Gein. Everyone, including Alma, is against the idea. Coming out of the very conservative 1950s, people were not excited to make movies that are gruesome and present a rather large amount of shock value. However, being the great visionary that Hitch was he sees the potential and moves forward. Paramount Studios was so against the film that they refused to fund it. Putting Hitch and Alma is a peculiar position to have to finance the film themselves. From North by Northwest to struggling like a kid fresh out of film school. That transition might have helped rekindle that fire that Hitch had so long ago. In hindsight, this turmoil might have been just what he needed.
As Hitch struggles with casting and getting his story nailed down we watch as the movie not only affects him, but also his marriage to Alma. Constant flirtations from Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) in an thinly veiled attempt to steal her away from Hitch in more ways than one adds to the mix. Alma plays her life as some sort of naive child more often than not when it comes to “her heart” as Hitch says. However, at the same time she is forced to be such a safety net for Hitch’s sometimes callous ways. She is constantly telling him to watch his weight, mind the film’s budget, and play ball with the Hollywood types; truly his better half. As the film becomes increasingly difficult for Hitch to maintain Alma must step in to assist while he is ill. She proves herself indispensable and Hitch is forced to not only recognize this, but vocalize it. Their relationship is one of absolute nuance. Alma suffers from delusions of grandeur more or less in the same ways as Hitch. They are true equals, one being incomplete without the other.
Purposefully avoiding many trailers or advertisements for Hitchcock I went in relatively blind. I wanted to get a fresh look at Hopkins' portrayal, which was critical to the success of the film. His speech pattern was perfect. The tongue and cheek way that Hitch talked to not only Alma but his actors was carried on by Hopkins with expert timing. While the fat suit and makeup didn’t make him a spitting image of Alfred Hitchcock, it was close enough that you didn’t really notice. I can’t think of any moment where I could even tell it was Anthony Hopkins. He really loses himself in the role. His ability to break the fourth wall (talk to the actual movie audience - you and me) was fantastic. Coupled by his internal dialogue with Ed Gein, Hitch was a fully realized character. Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Alma Reville was the most powerful of the film. While Hopkins excelled, Mirren topped him here. As I mentioned earlier, she plays moments very naive and its comes across particularly genuine. You want to believe that she is just seeing the good in people and overlooking their true motives. When she is upset at Hitch you agree with her even though you love Hitch. She has ability to draw you in whether you want it or not. Mirren was really at her best here. With excellent assists from Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Danny Huston, and surprisingly Jessica Beil added to a rounded out cast that made for a funny, relevant, and smart love letter to filmmakers and film buffs alike.
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