Director Sacha Gervasi’s treatment of the life of Hitchcock is very much in the tone of Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.” I gather there will be numerous comparisons and parallels drawn, as this new look at Hitchcock’s career is very much like Burton’s own tribute to Ed Wood. There’s the breaking of the fourth wall, the satirical look at filmmaking, the focus on the madman behind the director, the glimpses at studio politics, and ultimately the way women affected these two famous directors. This time around Alfred Hitchcock is worn by Anthony Hopkins who doesn’t quite convince as the rotund director, but has a ball as the perpetually repressed and lovelorn creative genius who expressed his inner most desires and fears through his own creative work. For Hitchcock aficionados, “Hitchcock” doesn’t quite inform you of facts about the man’s life that you haven’t already seen or read before.
There’s an emphasis on his creative work with his wife Alma, there’s a look at Hitchcock’s eccentric filmmaking methods, his casting for the key roles in “Psycho,” and his exploration in to his unrequited romance toward Grace Kelly and Vera Miles. It’s nothing you haven’t learned before, but director Gervasi does attempt to take those well known facts and turn it in to the story of a creative genius who spent most of his life lusting after his dream girl, unaware Alma Hitchcock was standing there all along fulfilling his every wish and desire. For some the emphasis on the relationship between Alma and Hitchcock may be a little too cloying, as it was for me. While it is noted that Alma was the inspiration for Hitchcock’s body of work, as well as the central source of inspiration and creativity, the film becomes less about the body of work and more about the marital woes, which feel tired and stale in certain moments.
There’s a sub-plot involving Alma’s relationship with another writer seeking her guidance toward publishing that interferes with Hitchcock’s work on “Psycho” that doesn’t quite add the intended dramatic punch and is ultimately irrelevant to the resolution of the story. The struggles by Hitchcock to complete “Psycho” is sadly glossed over in favor of his relationship with Alma, and it’s a shame since the moments when Alfred is composing the film tend to be the most compelling and richly composed. James Darcy has a very small role as Anthony Perkins, but knocks it out of the park playing the man in the flesh. He embodies the role of Perkins more than Hopkins does Hitchcock, and it’s a shame there aren’t more scenes involving the two men.
Scarlett Johannsen is ravishing as the gorgeous Janet Leigh who threatens to become another of Hitchcock’s unrequited loves if she doesn’t step lively, and endures many hard ships to complete the role of Marion Crane. Johannsen provides a memorable performance and really does shine in the role. Helen Mirren is as electric as ever as the under appreciated muse to Hitchcock who spent most of her days helping him create works of art and never asked for much in return. “Hitchcock” is by no means a game changer, or a masterpiece, but for light entertainment with some strong performances, this is highly suggested. Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” doesn’t re-invent the wheel nor does it provide new insight in to Alfred Hitchcock, but for a small slice of the man’s career and how he conducted his life around Hollywood and with his love Alma, it’s a strong film with stand out performances by Scarlett Johannsen and James D’Arcy.