The irony about Hitchcock is that it is a movie so unlike how its subject, Alfred Hitchcock, would make. That isn’t to say this is a bad movie but more that it doesn’t do anything extraordinary in its retelling of a key moment in Hitchcock’s life and what you get is a very fair, solid biopic which doesn’t do anything but confirm some well-told and well-known facts about the iconic director.
The biggest advantage the movie does have is that the titular character is played by acting heavyweight Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins is perfect as Hitchcock and manages to effectively lose himself in the role, disappearing behind the prosthetics and bodysuit but never so much so that this feels like a caricature rather than a performance. The voice, the movement and the gravitas all come through perfectly and although it never feels like you are actually watching Hitchcock, it feels damn close.
This is ably matched by Helen Mirren as Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville. The story is as much hers as it is his, her being the unknown, unrecognised genius behind him. From script rewrites, story inspirations and in one infamous case, actually directing parts of the movie for him, Alma gets to shine here and Mirren does an excellent job as the matriarch against all the movie-star attractive women Hitchcock was reknown for casting.
Hitchcock is not a straight birth to death biopic though and in fact focuses on the making of Psycho. The story behind this movie is fascinating, from casting issues, studio concerns and the idea that this movie would actually ruin Hitchcock’s reputation as a director rather than elevate it further. There are plenty of fascinating behind the scenes moments which flesh out how the film was made and how Hitchcock was forced to bend some of the rules to make the movie happen.
This aspect is cast well too, with Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel and James D’Arcy all fleshing out the recognisable cast of Psycho and giving the behind the scenes aspects of the movies more depth. This isn’t enough to elevate the movie above a standard retelling of an interesting part of Hitchcock’s life though. There are some attempts to do something slightly more Hitchcock with the film that bares his name, like imagined interactions with Michael Wincott’s Ed Gein for example, but this doesn’t do enough and you find yourself slightly uninspired although always interested.
It also suffers from the fact that we know the end of the story. Psycho’s success is no secret for anyone who chooses to watch a movie about Alfred Hitchcock so the ending leaves the movie slightly flat and lifeless, with little to add to what has already gone before and what much of us knew already anyway.
Overall, great performances from Hopkins and Mirren and a fascinating look at the making of Psycho can’t save this movie from being a standard biopic. It suffers from a lack of originality or a unique ending to a story much of us already know.
Rating – 3.5
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