MRR Movie Review: "Hitchcock"

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A biographical drama film centered on the relationship between director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville during the making of Psycho, spanning from Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein, the real-life inspiration for the character of Norman Bates, to the release of the groundbreaking film in 1960.
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Movie Review: "Hitchcock"
Rating: PG-13
Length: 98 minutes
Release Date: Dec. 7, 2012
Directed by: Sacha Gervasi
Genre: Biography/Drama

"Hitchcock" is a 2012 biographical drama about director Alfred Hitchcock's life when he was filming the 1960 suspense thriller "Psycho." It is directed by Sacha Gervasi and stars Anthony Hopkins in the title role. The screenplay by John J. McLaughlin is based on the nonfiction biography "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho" by Stephen Rebello.

"Hitchcock" is a success for director Sacha Gervasi as his first feature film. His only previous credit as director is a documentary on the rock group Anvil. Gervasi directs three world-class actors in "Hitchcock," including Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson. Jeff Cronenweth provides first-rate cinematography on "Hitchcock." Croneweth is already known for his cinematography on films such as "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "Fight Club."

Mature audience members should already be familiar with much of Hitchcock's work, especially "Psycho." Most viewers over forty years of age were changed forever when they first saw this groundbreaking horror classic. This film was quite distinct from the other horror films at the time, which featured mummies and vampires. "Psycho" featured a psychotic villain with a radical sexuality, which was an unprecedented premise.

Gervasi gives "Hitchcock" a clean 1950s feel that accurately depicts the now-famous actors Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh during the filming of "Psycho." It also covers Hitchcock's inner demons with a detail that the audience may find surprising. The result is a mixture of spirited gossip and insight into the man who invented a film genre. Hitchcock is treated much more harshly in the HBO biopic "The Girl."

The film opens as Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) is trying to make a film based on Robert Bloch's novel "Psycho." He is looking for a screenwriter for the film and interviews Joseph Stefano (Ralph Macchio). Hitchcock hires Stefano on the spot when Stefano says he discusses buried rage, his mother, and sex in his therapy sessions with his psychiatrist.

Barney Balaban (Richard Portnow), head of Paramount Pictures, refuses to fund the film due to its radial premise. Hitchcock must mortgage his house to fund "Psycho", which he considers to be his finest vision as a director. The stress of filming "Psycho" causes Hitchcock to have a nervous breakdown and he nearly divorces his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) during this period. "Hitchcock" shows Hitchcock and Reville nearly going insane before they reconcile for the final editing of "Psycho."

Later in the film, Walt Disney prevents Hitchcock from filming an episode of his television series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" at Disneyland. Hitchcock's production of "Psycho" is the reason given for this refusal. "Hitchcock" also explains that Hitchcock was the best director who never won an Oscar for Best Director.

"Hitchcock" makes several significant departures from the director's actual life. The epilogue in the film says that the marriage between Hitchcock and Reville was never better after making "Psycho." In fact, Hitchcock continued to harass actresses under contract to him. Ed Gein was a serial killer who was the model for Norman Bates. This film shows Hitchcock and Gein having a number of conversations prior to the making of "Psycho." In real life, Gein was confined to a maximum security mental hospital during this period.

Reville is a major character in "Hitchcock" because she was a professional collaborator with Hitchcock. She was a professional film editor and screenwriter who served as Hitchcock's sounding board. Reville was especially proficient at spotting continuity errors in films and revising dialogue. Mirren's portrayal of Reville is excellent, as are Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock and Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh. Hopkins' performance is especially impressive given the amount of makeup he must wear to physically resemble Hitchcock. The parts of these three actors have approximately the same amount of screen time and contribute equally well to support the story in the film.

The supporting roles of Peggy (Toni Collette) and Anthony Perkins (James D'Arcy) are the most notable supporting roles in the film, which add sparkle to the film. Collette smolders with sensuality, making her portrayal of Hitchcock's secretary one of the sexiest performances in recent history. D'Arcy is devastatingly accurate and the audience will believe that Norman Bates has been reborn. Additional great performances by supporting actor should result in many Oscar nominations for "Hitchcock."

The soundtrack for this film is also memorable, especially the creepy score for the "Psycho" scenes. The theme for "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" is "Funeral March of a Marionette" by Charles Gounod. This short piano piece is instantly recognizable to Hitchcock fans and makes a suitable addition to this quirky film's soundtrack.