Women steal the spotlight in 'Hitchcock'
Though the film is called “Hitchcock” and ostensibly centers on the legendary director, we get a better sense of the women around him than we do the enigmatic filmmaker.
The film brings into focus Alfred Hitchcock's collaboration with his wife Alma Reville and his working relationship with actress Janet Leigh in Psycho.
Alfred and Alma are played with panache by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, yet “Hitchcock” seems tonally disjointed in its look at them.
An editor in her own right, Reville had a big role in casting, writing and editing Hitchcock's films. Mirren gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Hitch's long-suffering wife.
Hitchcock's well-known obsession with his beautiful blond stars is addressed, but not deeply explored. Alma's working relationship with screenwriter Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) speaks to her yearning for admiration and approval.
Donning a padded paunch to approximate Hitchcock's corpulence, Hopkins approximates the look of the director at 60 and effectively mimics his distinctive vocal patterns. But swaths of the film featuring the director's hallucinatory fantasy conversations with mass murderer Ed Gein serve as a confusing distraction from the more involving elements that were happening outside of Hitchcock's head, namely Hitchcock's singular methods on set and his interactions with Alma.
Early in the film Hitchcock attends the premiere of his 1959 classic North by Northwest. A reporter remarks, “Shouldn't you quit while you're ahead?”
Hitchcock tells Alma he'd like to return to the excitement he felt as a young filmmaker and becomes fascinated by Robert Bloch's novel “Psycho.” The resulting film upsets the industry's censors with its murderous cross-dressing lead character.
Director Sacha Gervasi can't seem to decide whether this is a historical biopic, a love story, an homage to a brilliant director or a story of the making of “Psycho.”
Scarlett Johansson captures Janet Leigh's down-to-earth charm. Leigh is well aware of the director's reputation and doesn't need the cryptic warning issued by Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) about not letting him control her life.
For her part, Alma is always in control, particularly as she nags her portly husband to slim down. When he accuses her of not being supportive of his work, she explodes with some of the film's most memorable dialogue.
(James D'Arcy who plays Tony Perkins in “Psycho” looks scarily like the actor he's playing, but he's not given much to do except make wan gay innuendos.)
Set circa 1960, the film, based on Stephen Rebello's “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” is at its best when the masterful director is on his film set or when he's at home talking shop with Alma.
Hitchcock approached “Psycho” as a wonderfully risky move, ideal for his offbeat sensibility: “What if someone really good made a horror picture,” he asks Alma.
Hitchcock ultimately does not reveal much about the famed master of suspense. But perhaps that's how he would have wanted it.
Claudia Puig is a film critic for USA TODAY.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh-set ‘Me and Earl’ big at Sundance, gets distribution deal
- 5-year-old boy needed for ‘Let It Snow’ role
- ‘Let It Snow’ filming in Millvale
- Film review: ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ draws heartfelt laughs, tears
- ‘Black or White’ leaves Kevin Costner spent — emotionally and financially
- Review: Stylish whodunit ‘The Loft’ doesn’t reach narrative heights
- Review: Cotillard shines in Dardennes’ moving social drama
- DVD reviews: ‘The Judge,’ ‘Fury’ and ‘The Book of Life’
- Review: ‘Black or White’ finds dramatic promise in the grey areas of American race relations
- Review: ‘A Most Violent Year’ speaks softly, carries much menace