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But Tony Hopkins' Hitchcock is a nice piece of impersonation
on May 23, 2016
A bit contrived and often flat in the scenes between Hitch and Alma (what Hitch himself would have done with placid English domesticity curdled with perverse impulses!). But Tony Hopkins' Hitchcock is a nice piece of impersonation. And Scarlett Johansson's Janet Leigh is crisp, a sharp little miniature of tone and likeness. Some specific complaints: the first act seems rushed. Some histories have "Psycho" coming as a result of Hitchcock's shrewd reading of the emerging market for cheap, dark little exploitation/drive-in movies. "Hitchcock" instead casts the movie as a make-or-break moment for Hitchcock's commercial viability—which it may have been, but those beats are thinly established. Instead the movie pursues a melodramatic subplot in which Hitchcock suspects Alma is cheating on him. He's tormented by his suspicions and his fears, which are voiced by Ed Gein himself as a kind of spectral conscience. A bizarre and distracting choice (maybe Bosley Crowther would have made more sense). Getting any movie made is enough of a tale of farce and treachery; why the creative team added this layer of misdirection is hard to figure. For my own taste, it would have been much more illuminating to have the film plumb Hitch's creative and commercial response to the "Psycho"-like cheapies that were crowding out his own brand of filmmaking. The point is that "Psycho" was a turning point for Hitch; his sexual obsessions became starker and less playful after "Psycho." The film is more like a shrieky coda to "Vertigo" than this film lets on. This movie depicts him stumbling and unsure of himself during the filming of what is rightly considered a masterpiece. There's some dramatic value to that, but it doesn't account for the masterly confidence of virtually every shot in "Psycho." If Hitch was an artist on the downslope of his powers, where did such a movie come from, given he was working with a rookie screenwriter and the production crew from his TV series? What I missed most in the movie was some of Hitchcock's own wit in teasing out the perversity of quiet middle-class people who dabble in murder firsthand or once-removed.