Oscarr Winners Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren* are spellbinding in this provocative story about the making of one of cinema's most iconic films. Plagued by both a reckless ego and nagging self-doubt, Hollywood legend Alfred Hitchcock (Hopkins) becomes obsessed with a grisly murder story that the studios won't back. Determined, he risks his reputation, his home and even the love of his wife Alma (Mirren), as he sets out to make the film. Ultimately, Hitch wins Alma over, and the two collaborate to create an enduring masterpiece - Psycho. Also starring Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette and Jessica Biel, Hitchcock is "a knockout from start to finish" (Rex Reed, New York Observer).
Movies based on real-life famous people often face a delicate balancing act: provide a broad recap of the major life events for the newcomer, while also delving deep enough to satisfy those with extensive knowledge of the subject. Although Hitchcock
doesn't exactly blaze any new trails into the psyche of one of the most popular filmmakers in history, the terrific central performances by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, as well as a mountain of supplemental DVD materials, make it possible to forgive quite a bit. Loosely based on Stephen Rebello's acclaimed book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho
, the story finds the director in a creative quandary after the huge success of North by Northwest
leaves him with seemingly no new worlds to conquer. Turning against the wishes of the studio and, more importantly, his wife/muse Alma Reville (Mirren), he attempts to regain his spark by turning his attention to a low-budget black-and-white shocker. Showering would never be the same again. Director Sacha Gervasi, who previously helmed the wonderfully insidery documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil
, makes the studio-bound segments a blast, especially when showcasing Hitch's various methods of attack against actors such as Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson), Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), and Anthony Perkins (an eerily perfect James D'Arcy). Together with Hopkins's plummy, slightly demented characterization, it presents a blackly comic look at a public figure whose sadistic glee in putting people through the ringer had a way of escaping the screen. Once off the set, though, things do admittedly begin to falter a bit, ascribing some questionable psychological motivations to the director's methods (a bit involving the notorious cannibal Ed Gein is particularly silly), and occasionally stranding Mirren on the sidelines. Even if it does occasionally stumble, however, the performances and juicy backstage bits ensure that Hitchcock
serves as an entertaining starter course in an endlessly fascinating filmmaker. If its gaps inspire you to watch, oh, a few dozen or so of the Master's movies to fill in the blanks, so much the better. --Andrew Wright