Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Hitchcock’ Review: One of the Year’s Best

“Hitchcock” is an astonishing portrait of one great filmmaker and his secret weapon behind his legendary films: his wife, Alma Reville.

Director Sacha Gervasi’s “Hitchcock” is a beautiful and genuine biopic of one of the most famous filmmakers of all time. The film frames the few months of Hitchcock’s (Anthony Hopkins) life while he was filming “Psycho” in 1959.

Hitchcock had just finished “North by Northwest,” a multi-million dollar blockbuster hit, and was looking for his next project. He came across Robert Bloch’s novel “Psycho,” a thriller inspired by the murders and sadistic habits of brutal killer, Ed Gein. Hitchcock (known to many as Hitch) is consistently under pressure to surprise the audience and he knew “Psycho” would do just that.

His wife Alma (Helen Mirren) isn’t completely sold into the idea of making “Psycho” into a film, but she knows how talented her husband is and if anyone can make it into a successful film, he can.

However, Paramount Pictures disagrees. They see “Psycho” as something that the audiences will hate based on the creepy story that it’s based off of. Hitch persuades them to let him finance the picture, even though the studio will release it.

Alma helps him cast the film, suggesting Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy) to play Norman Bates and Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) to play Marion Crane. Although Alma supports her husband, she is currently working on adapting another screenplay with friend Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), which takes up a lot of her time during the day. When production for “Psycho” begins, Hitch realizes that making a movie isn’t as easy without the full support of his lifelong partner.

This film works and is one of the best of the year because of the incredible performances by both Hopkins and Mirren; and John J. McLaughlin’s intriguing screenplay. The film is just as much a tribute to Hitchcock, as it is his wife, Alma. The same goes for Hopkins and Mirren: the film provides just as much of a showcase for Hopkins as it does for Mirren.

Hopkins gives one of the most memorable performances of his career and about ten minutes into the film, I completely forgot I was looking at the once “Hannibal” actor. His make-up and mannerisms create an uncanny resemblance to the late filmmaker and I was in awe for every second he was on-screen. An Oscar nomination, or even a win is richly deserved.

Everyone is talking up Hopkins’ performance in “Hitchcock,” but Mirren matches him in every way and she should be billed as “lead actress,” not “supporting.” Mirren is the perfect choice to play the role of Hitch’s strong-willed wife who politely hides in the shadows while her husband gets all the praise for his acclaimed films.

What’s brilliant about McLaughlin’s screenplay, (which is based off of the book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello) is that it starts off focusing on Hitchcock as a man, and then transitions to the life of his wife and their marriage. We learn just how much Alma influenced his movies by assisting with the production, editing, screenplay and at times, direction. There is one particular scene in the film, where Alma gets fed up with Hitch’s demands and puts him in his place. The audience actually started clapping and cheering when she was finished, myself among them.

Johansson, D’Arcy and Jessica Biel, who plays Vera Miles, shouldn’t go unnoticed either. Johansson captures the prim and proper Janet Leigh, who remained strictly professional while on set; D’Arcy, who looks almost exactly like Perkins, embodies the shy, innocent actor very well; and Biel portrays Miles with charisma and grace.

“Hitchcock” is an intriguing character study on the brilliant and quirky filmmaker and gives us an entertaining story on how his most famous film was made. Also, if you’ve never seen “Psycho,” you’ll want to as soon as you leave the theatre.

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