Director: Sacha Gervasi
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren
Length: 98 minutes
Hitchcock is a pleasant ride, but it shouldn’t be: Gervasi aspired to haunt us with the sinister workings of one of the sharpest minds in film-making, but this version of Alfred Hitchcock (Hopkins) was caught somewhere between a cheeky old romantic and closet schizophrenic. The contrast seemed unintended and its deliverance clunky rather than subtle. For a film of 98 minutes, Gervasi’s team perhaps tries to explore too many of the potentially interesting ideas about the pressures playing on a visionary’s mind, and ultimately does too little.
The most awkward plotline is Hitchcock’s hallucinatory befriending of the Wisconsin murderer, Ed Gein, who inspired Robert Bloch’s novel, Psycho. Gein probably symbolizes bloodlust and possessiveness, but it’s cheap horror.
In Hitchcock’s supposed obsession for his leading ladies, which his wife Alma (Mirren) claims is so destructive to their own relationship, the legendary director comes across as cheeky rather than darkly controlling. He peeps through spy holes, pinches candy corn and cracks flirtatious jokes. We really know Hitchcock’s marriage is safe. Alma is too faithful, and if anything too prudish, for the side story about a fellow screenwriter’s advances on her to go anywhere disquieting.
It’s a shame Gervasi didn’t dedicate more of his film to the set of Psycho. When shooting the lengthy close up on a guilty Janet Leigh driving to escape a suspicious policeman, the director’s sexual anxieties are unraveled in his eagerness to provoke the right reaction from the actress and get the perfect cut. This portal into Hitchcock’s mind is certainly more interesting than the scenes of a domesticated director. “We’ve mortgaged our house!” says Alma to her husband, but their economic hardship is near invisible.
I’ll probably remember this as a hybrid marital comedy with some clever one-liners, masterfully delivered by Hopkins, because only when we are invited onto the set of Psycho does Gervasi’s experimenting bipoic give way to an otherwise stifled drama of intrigue and unsettling mysteries.