The movie Psycho always comes to mind when I think of Alfred Hitchcock, whether fair or unfair. It was such a dramatic departure from his previous films of North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train and Rebecca (a personal favorite of mine). Not everyone believed Hitchcock could make this departure and make this movie, based on the book that was already loosely based on the infamous murderer Ed Gein. However, he defied the odds to create his next masterpiece. The movie Hitchcock uses that backdrop for the story about him making this movie. It also looks deep into the relationship between Hitchcock and his wife, Alma, who is one of his most trusted collaborators. In essence, this is an unconventional love story between the director and his love. The movie does tend to run along cliched lines but the performances of Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren elevate this film beyond the script and keep your eyes glued to the screen.
As I said, this film is a biopic about how Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) picked his next movie and the resistance he got for doing it. He was an aging director who wanted to break out of the usual mold and do something different, something shocking to the world. Naturally the studio resisted when Psycho was brought to his attention, but he was a man on a mission to prove everyone wrong. Along the way, he gets more and more agitated and he stakes his career (and his house) on it and grasps on to anyone that will believe in him. Even his wife is trying her best to keep her support for her husband up while pursuing a new idea that excites her for the first time in years. With that, people, we have conflict!
It’s hard not to get sucked into the movie with the stellar performances of Hopkins and especially Helen Mirren. Their chemistry and the way they can play off each other is hypnotizing. The way that Hopkins plays Hitchcock is great as he makes sure every move and phrase is deliberate and not without purpose. He is like a master chess player, making certain moves in order to manipulate the future action. Mirren’s Alma matches wits with him as well, delivering great comebacks as the one woman who can keep up with her husband’s idiosyncrasies. The rest of the cast does an admirable job but the show is truly about Hopkins’ and Mirren’s performances.
The issue I did have with this movie was the script and pacing. It never felt consistent enough to catch up with the main pair. Whether using his love of his leading ladies, his conversations in his head with Ed Gein or the subplot of Alma and another writer adapting his book (Danny Huston), it never meshed together for me. If anything, it took me out of the most interesting parts of the movie, which was the fight to get Psycho made and the relationship strains it caused between a famous director and his wife who remains behind the scenes. The pacing of having all these events coming together just felt inconsistent and it bored me to where I felt like nodding off in the middle of the movie as I waited for it to shift back and forth. There are also moments where it felt very television movie-esque in terms of the conflicts, where it seems the action didn’t seem realistic. The director Sacha Gervasi does combat these issues with great shots to show more insight into Hitchcock’s mind, such as his take on the shower scene and watching the audience watch his finished soon-to-be masterpiece for the first time. Again, that is a testament to how Hopkins sells the dialogue and action on the screen and interacts with the characters and environment around him.
Overall, it is a decent film and must watch for Hitchcock enthusiasts. I love the relationship back and forth between Mirren and Hopkins and wished the movie played more to that as opposed to other plots that seemed to take away from that spirit. If anything, it’s a great insight to see how a director that could see and imagine such horrific things put onto the screen, relies on the solidarity of his lady in order to make sense of his work and purpose. While showing flashes of brilliance, Hitchcock only wishes it can offer up the consistent genius that the amazing director put up on the screen.