"Hitchcock" (2012 release; 98 min.) is based on Stephen Rebello's non-fiction book 'Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho'. As the movie opens we see that Hitchcock is enjoying the success of 1959's North by Northwest movie, and is now pondering his next project. Paramount Pictures would like for him to do another North By Northwest-like movie, but Hitchcock is itching for something different and challenging. He stumbles upon the book Psycho, and decides that will be his next project. Paramount resists of course, and Hitchcock in the end finances the movie pretty much by himself. But the REAL story of "Hitchcock" is not Psycho, or not even Alfred Hitchcock himself, but instead Alma Reville (a/k/a Mrs. Hitchcock) and her relationship with Alfred and other people in her life. In that sense, the movie is really mistitled, and a more appropriate title would be "Mr. & Mrs. Hitchcock". I don't know to what extent the movie is a correct reflection of historical facts, but I was quite surprised to learn of the active role that Alma played in (i) rewriting the script for Psycho when rewrites where needed and the original writer was unavailable, (ii) stepping in as a director when Hitchcock fell ill for a few days, and (iii) re-editing (along with Hitchcock) the film after the initial cool reception (it was her Alma's insistence that the now infamous musical score for the shower scene was added).
Several comments: the acting in the movie is superb throughout. I felt a bit sorry for Anthony Hopkins as he has the impossible task of bringing an iconic character like Hitchcock to life, but Hopkins did pretty well. However, the scene-stealer par excellence is Helen Mirren as Mrs. Hitchcock: she truly brings the film to life. At one point, when Hitchcock suspects her of having an affair with another writer, Alma dresses down Hitchcock (figuratively), and it is one devastating scene and the highlight of the film.
Kudos as well to Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel, in the choice supporting roles of Janet Leigh and Vera Miles, respectively. Johansson is just ravishing. I don't know why but I had very little expectations going into this movie. I shouldn't have worried, as the movie simply flew by in no time and I enjoyed this a lot more than I ever expected.
on April 28, 2013
I don't know much about Alfred Hitchcock, other than the movies he left us with. That's why I was so interested in seeing this biographical drama. When I found out that Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren were involved, I was tempted to see "Hitchcock" the week it opened in theaters. I missed that opportunity, and the remainder of its run had one evening showing per day, so I eventually decided to wait for the Blu-ray. Reviews have been disappointing, but, as always, I trusted my instincts and decided to make up my own mind.
Hopkins doesn't try to mimic Hitchcock's voice exactly, but he does employ the deliberate mode of speech that most of us are familiar with. The makeup isn't entirely convincing either, but it's good enough to get the job done. Hopkins plays the director quite seriously, and I felt that Hitchcock's playful nature was a little underused.
What the movie attempts to do is take us back to the making of Psycho, which was released in 1960. Paramount's bosses were seeking something similar to North by Northwest, which had been released in 1959, but Hitchcock wanted to try something new. We learn how the project was chosen, and the sacrifices that Hitchcock and wife Alma made to make it happen. It's an interesting look at a brief time in a career which spanned more than half a century.
The movie gets a lot of things right; It looks and feels like 1960, Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel manage to resemble film stars of that era, and the casting in general is excellent.
I've been thinking about why reviews were so negative, and I've come to the conclusion that it is a movie which will appeal to a very specific audience. It's not a gripping drama, and there isn't much excitement. This is a story intended for movie buffs or fans of Hitchcock. If you want to know more about his character, and how movies are made, this has something for you. Character studies are hard to get right, and the movie is far from perfect. But I was engrossed for 90 minutes, and enjoyed learning how some of the events came to pass. The marketing for Psycho was inventive, and contributed to its early success. Some of that story is shown here.
The biggest source of conflict in the movie is Hitchcock's relationship with Alma. We learn something about their home life, and ultimately how important she was to his success. There's an explosive scene, just over an hour into the movie, in which Mirren's performance is elevated from good to great. It reminded me somewhat of the scene in Doubt, where Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman finally confront each other.
Seeing "Hitchcock" makes me want to watch Psycho again, and I will do so in the near future. I've also been watching the excellent Bates Motel, starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore, and would recommend that as a good companion piece to Psycho if you're a fan.
"Hitchcock" works for its intended audience, but many people will find it lacking. It's a quiet movie, focusing on characters and details, rather than intensely dramatic scenes. I'm not sure what moviegoers were expecting. Perhaps they were hoping for a detailed look at Hitchcock's entire career? Lincoln fell flat for some viewers for similar reasons. If you enjoy seeing good acting, and have any interest in the man, "Hitchcock" is worth your time.
Overall score 4/5 (for it's intended audience)
on January 11, 2013
***** Spoiler Alert**********
4 1/2 stars- a great film
Having read many of the more famous movie critics pick this film apart, I still had a great desire to see this film. The subject matter and actors made this a must see for the 2012 film season in my book. The first problem was the limited amount of theaters showing the film. I actually had to wait for it to show up at a discount theater, which is where I viewed the film today. The long wait and the negative reviews were all brushed aside as I saw Alfred Hitchcock before my eyes- courtesy of Anthony Hopkins.
Hopkins no doubt, spent endless hours learning how to speak and act like Mr. Hitchcock. It wasn't just his voice that comes across as authentic, its also some of his poses and glances. I had even heard some rumblings about the choice of Hopkins to play the famous director. There is no doubt that this selection was the right one. Its easy to try and find problems with someone who is portraying an icon. But make no mistake Hopkin's delivers in his best role in recent memory.
Many of us grew up watching Hitch on his tv program reruns. As a nice touch in the film it starts and ends like one of his television shows- with Hitchcock's classic comments about what we are going to see and what we have just witnessed. The film shows us the behind the scenes making of Psycho and all that went right and wrong in the process. What to do when Paramount doesn't want to finance your new film? A disgruntled actress at the end of her contract has to co-exist with Mr.Hitchock. There are problems with the Hitchcock marriage. Many things are going on and yet, Hitchcock with the help of Alma (Hellen Mirren)pull things together their way.
Hellen Mirren is incredible as Mrs.Hitchock- Alma. She should be up for an oscar and would deserve the victory if it comes here way. Having to deal with the demands of being married to the most famous director in the world and having her own dreams weighs on her mind. She strives to find a balance between the two. And its her help that was the extra push for many of Hitchcock's films. One of the best scenes in the film is when Mirren tells Hitchock how it is in a frustrated outburst. It lasts for several moments as Alfred stands and stares without a word to say. One of those signature scenes that you will always remember an actor/actress for. And this was Mirren's moment.
Not to be forgotten are some of the supporting actors/actresses. Scarlet Johannson plays Janet Leigh very effectively. And she delivers on another great moment and one of films great scenes- the shower scene of Psycho. I don't know if it was rehearsed many times or on one take, but it was really well done. Vera Miles was played by Jessica Beil. Although she didn't have a lot of scenes, she was good as the actress who disappointed Hitchcock for having a family, when Hitch wanted to make her a star.
So I would suggest watching the film with an open mind. Especially if you have read some of the reviews that I did. If you are a Hitchcock fan this is a no-brainer. You will love the behind the scenes take on Mr.Hitchcock and his wife. And just how many drinks did he have during the film? The best scene in the film for me is almost at the very end. When the crowd is watching his finished masterpiece. He listens outside the door and conducts the screams like the maestro that he was. Enjoy
on February 22, 2013
The making of psycho is the basis of this film and is better than the source material. The titular character is played masterfully by Anthony Hopkins. The actor looks and sounds like Hitchcock by his mannerisms and voice inflections. The actor deftly portrays the man as controlling and self-absorbed yet somehow a film making genius. Helen Mirren as his wife shows she was emotionally involved with another man but took her husband to task for being too obsessive with his lead actresses. The couple worked best together as she was an editor of her husbands films and the music of the shower scene was shown to be her idea. Scarlett Johannson as janet leigh was well cast but she should have been seen more involved in the movie. She was what drove the original film. Hardly any time was spent on the acting of Bates and the addition of Hitchcock talking to a ghost of Bein was odd. The film was in limited release so many people did not get to see this. It is worth watching and the scene with Scarlett with hitchcock as he directs the shower scene shows a little of film legendry. The premiere scene is also well done as hitch feels vindicated.
on March 4, 2013
Great performance by Anthony Hopkins. He was unrecognizable. Interesting back story on the making of Psycho. I didn't feel the film revealed much about who Hitchcock really was. There was too much surface scratching & at the end I thought...that's it? Overall, a decent rental that keeps your attention. You won't want your money back or want to throw things at the screen. :)
on July 11, 2015
Fun movie about the making of Psycho. Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins -- How can you go wrong? The surprise for me was Scarlett Johanson, who really did manage not only to look like Janet Leigh, but to sound like her. In fact, having read about Hitch's issues with some of his leading ladies, I thought Johanson's performance was especially good at giving a sense of how Hitch could be handled by someone who knew what she was doing.
on September 25, 2013
As chance would have it, this appeared at roughly the same time as "The Girl," drawn from accounts of Hitchcock's abusive treatment of actress Tippi Hedrin. Toby Jones in "The Girl" did a much better Hitchcock impersonation than Anthony Hopkins does here. "The Girl" also has the benefit of being about a real personal crisis for Hitchcock and Hedrin, one in which the celebrated director became a contemptible creep. "Hitchcock" tries to gin up all kinds of phony drama about the production of "Psycho," actually going so far as to have the spirit of Ed Gein -- the cannibalistic serial killer who inspired Robert Bloch's novel -- turn up in the director's bathroom. A waste of the cast's talent, and your time.
on July 29, 2014
One of those sleeper movies I missed at the theater. It was interesting and entertaining. The acting was great and the story flowed well. I had to look up how accurate the story was from the actually events of the making of "Psycho". If you're looking for a new movie to watch on Friday night, this is it!
on April 13, 2013
We only have the word of the credits to believe John J. McLaughlin based his screenplay on Stephen Rebello's superb book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho"
"Hitchcock" plays so fast and loose with the facts that throughout a screening, viewers with some knowledge of the backstory of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece are tempted to periodically shout out 'what the hell are they talking about?"
Rebello's book, published in the early 90's has enough factual anecdotes in it for five decent screenplays...this amalgam of nonsense and fantasy does justice to none of them.
Giving Anthony Hopkins jowls and putting him a fat suit doesn't make him convincing (though he certainly tries)...maybe the producers were so enamored of the fact they signed Helen Mirren to play Alma, they felt they had to rewrite history just to strengthen her role and give the film some kind of bizarre balance.
Yes Hitchock valued Alma's opinion, yes he relied her on judgment, but she did not have a hand in rewriting Joseph Stefano's screenplay...she didn't rush to the set to oversee the Martin Balsam murder scene when Hitchcock fell ill, and to anyone's knowledge she didn't participate in the reediting of the original cut to make it 'showable'...
The innacuracies are endless.....
Alma suggesting they use Bernie Herrmann's screaming strings during the shower scene....(Hitchcock's decision once he heard Hermann's score)
Alma revealing Janet Leigh 'blinks' on the bathroom floor (what she DID say was "Hitch..you can't ship it...Janet Leigh gulps")
Alma suggesting they kill off the leading lady in the first half hour (Hitch's idea)
Alma suggested Tony Perkins for Norman Bates (again Hitch suggested the idea to Joe Stefano)
Yes movies based on historical fact are always granted poetic license, but in the case of "Hitchcock" the poetic license destroys what could have been a great movie.
By ignoring the actual shooting of 'Pyscho' and concentrating on some kind of soap opera version of "Al and Alma," the filmmakers suck the blood (so to speak) right out of the story.
A really good film could be centered around Hitchcock and the making of his groundbreaking film....."Hitchcock" misses by a few country miles.
the DVD contains no special features which in this case is probably a blessing
Alfred Hitchcock is rightly regarded as one of the greatest movie directors of all time, and "Psycho" is rightly regarded as one of his greatest films.
So how better to tell the story than with a light, tongue-in-cheek tale about Hitchcock's marital woes and battles with the studio? "Hitchcock" is a fun movie with some genuinely brilliant acting, particularly by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, and it does show us how even the greatest have to fight for their art. But it also shies away from any kind of depth.
In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock (Hopkins) had another runaway success with "North by Northwest," but is bothered by a reporter's implication that his best work is behind him. While the studios offer him their best (such as adapting "Casino Royale"), Hitchcock wants to reclaim the raw artistic thrill of his younger days. So he decides to adapt a bestselling horror novel, "Psycho."
His wife Alma (Mirren) quickly warms to the idea, despite wanting to do her own writing projects with her friend Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston). But the studio balks, forcing Hitchcock to finance the movie with his own money.
But Alma is soon annoyed by studio meddling and Hitchcock's constant ogling of the beautiful blonde Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson). Hitchcock begins to suspect that Alma is having an affair with Whit, and the stress takes a toll on both his health and the movie shoot. At the same time, he is plagued with insecurities about the movie's future, and whether it will sink his career.
Hitchcock is a man who is still something of an enigma today, but "Hitchcock" doesn't really try to explore him in any depth. Instead, it dances between the Hitchcocks' marital problems and the trials of making a movie that no studio wants anything to do with -- and it does it with a wry, witty touch that borders on comedy without ever quite crossing the line.
The writing tends to be airy and clever, especially when the writers dabble in Hitchcock's notorious macabre streak ("By the way try the finger sandwiches... they're real fingers," he remarks when showing people pictures of a serial killer's work). In fact, he's at his most charming when he's lighthearted, such as the little stabby dance he does outside the theater on opening night.
However, I felt that "Hitchcock" avoided handling its story with any depth. The marital spat is cleared up too quickly and cleanly, and his controlling nature towards the "Hitchcock blondes" is briefly touched on but never really explored. And Hitchcock's conversations with an imaginary Ed Gein seemed strangely out of sync with the tone of the overall movie.
But Hopkins plays Hitchcock as a genial, witty man with some darker sides, and he mimics Hitchcock's speech and body language nicely. On the flipside, Mirren plays Alma as a fiery, intelligent woman who is content to remain in her husband's shadow, but also wants to be appreciated for it. And James D'Arcy and Scarlett Johansson do fine smaller roles as Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh.
"Hitchcock" is not a bad movie, just a lightweight one -- excellent acting, a somewhat flimsy story, and plenty of behind-the-scenes woes for a now-beloved movie. See it for the performances and the banter.