The story of Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), set against the backdrop of the making of his most infamous picture “Psycho”.
A movie supposedly about the ‘making of’ another movie. In truth this is a biographical blend of Hitchcock’s motivations, demons and desires. Much like its source material “Psycho”, this movie contains more than a drop of black comedy.
In the title role, Hopkins is lavish and melodramatic, wallowing in the literal fat-suit of the ‘Master of Suspense’. However, he is also remarkable; looking into Hopkins’s eyes one can almost see the little boy who lived behind Hitchcock’s own eccentric charade. Mirren gives an extraordinary turn as Hitchcock’s semi-tortured wife, Alma. Frankly, other cast members seem to be present for purely aesthetic reasons. I’d particularly highlight both James D’Arcy’s doppleganger-like appearance as a nervous Anthony Perkins and Scarlett Johanssen’s angelic Janet Leigh.
There are moments of snug and appealing indulgence including some amusingly sarcastic scenes between the great director and the US censors as well as the furious crescendo of a spitting Hitchcock showing exactly how he wants Janet Leigh to be butchered behind the shower-curtain.
I appreciated the nods to Hitchcock’s other work with the mentions of such classics as “Strangers on a Train”, “The Lady Vanishes” and “Rope”. Although, “Vertigo” – and its apparent failing – is the butt of most references to Hitch’s other movies. There is a scene which many fans of the great man will find especially poignant. Here, Hitchcock breaks-down when nostalgically recounting the fun he had in his earlier career and details his yearning for that feeling once again with the making of his controversial horror movie.
One of the highlights for me was Hopkins’s playful dance as he stands alone outside the doors to the theatre premiering “Psycho”. Inside, the audience are screaming along to Bernard Hermann’s orchestral slice-and-dice shower scene soundtrack; outside, Hopkins is conducting his own orchestra of self-congratulation like the maestro he is.
The movie doesn’t succeed on all levels. Hitchcock’s bizarre hallucinations of Ed Gein are profoundly mis-matched to the feel of the picture and you can’t help think that the talented supporting cast is under-utilised. The script is somewhat hit-and-miss with some lines bordering on the saccharine; this triteness is most evident in one of the final pieces of dialogue:
Alfred Hitchcock: I will never find a Hitchcock blonde as beautiful as you.
Alma Reville: Oh, Hitch. I’ve waited thirty years to hear you say that.
Alfred Hitchcock: That, my dear, is why they call me the Master of Suspense.
But overall, this is an enjoyable romp driven by the fact that our two leads are clearly having the time of their lives in roles that seem tailor made for them.
Hotdog rating: 7/10