Hitchcock – Review
February 10, 2013 2 Comments
Film Review by FilmFellaHenry – 7/10
As with many great directors, Alfred Hitchcock was a rather odd man. Possessed by a morbid fascination with death, a lifelong dread of police (the fear of being pulled over prevented him from learning to drive) and a wickedly dark sense of humour, Hitchcock frequently worked such quirks into his films, giving them a unique, personal originality. Even the production process was riddled with eccentricities, from a staunch resistance to location shooting (resulting in some very ropey blue screen moments) to a penchant for mailing his crew boxes full of phobia-related creatures, like spiders and mice. Alfred Hitchcock was a larger than life character… and subsequently perfect for a biopic.
Rather than adopt the standard career-spanning life account template, Director Sacha Gervasi has instead focused on a sliver from Hitchcock’s (Anthony Hopkins) life, depicting the auteur’s struggle to create Psycho. Although it only deals with a short period of time, Gervasi attempts to use the film’s problematic creation to highlight the director’s most prominent features and the crucial relationship with his steadfast wife Alma (Helen Mirren).
The prominent difficulty with dramatising an influential and well respected artist’s life is that by their very nature, they don’t really follow the same moral/ethical rules as everyone else. By establishing a reputation for creating popular, critically acclaimed works, such an artist can get away with a lot more, at least in the public eye, than the everyday Joe.
Take Roman Polanski, for example. The guy is still facing paedophilia charges in the US dating back to 1977, so much so that he’s currently hiding out in Switzerland. Do A-list actors still want to work with him? Do audiences still watch his films? Hell yes, because he’s an accomplished director with an excellent track record for creating good movies. In contrast, lesser known British actor, writer and comedian Chris Langham was convicted in 2007 for possession of child porn and subsequently banged up for 6 months. No such forgiveness for Langham: it took him 4 years since his release to secure an acting part, stating in an interview for The Guardian that ‘nobody wants to hire me’.
This fickle nature of public opinion has a knock-on effect for Hitchcock: while the film tries to expose the darker points of his character as flaws to counter-balance his good traits, these defects are never really seen as such. All the tantrums, obsessive traits and morbid fixations are ultimately justified in the astounding work (in this case Psycho) that they contribute to. As a result, whatever personal revelations Hitchock attempts to bring to the table become largely irrelevant, prompting the question: why make this movie in the first place?
Aside from an education into Psycho’s creation (and let’s face it: with today’s online expanse of readily available information such a goal is also redundant), Hitchcock exists as a platform for the expected top-end performances biopics generally boast. And in this aim, the film succeeds. Anthony Hopkins reprises Alfred Hitchcock marvellously, capturing the mannerisms, speech patterns and inner turmoil with meticulous attention. Similarly, Mirren gives the standard of performance you would expect from the veteran actress, providing a firm match for Hitchcock’s own intensity. Mention must also be given to the supporting cast, namely Michael Stuhlbarg, James D’Arcy and Danny Huston, who carry themselves well.
On another positive note, Hitchcock does display a degree of creativity, particularly with the fictitious discourse Hitchcock periodically has with notorious killer Ed Gein (Michael Wincottt), who was supposedly the inspiration behind Anthony Perkins’ character. Watching Hitch calmly observe an imagined Gein go about his grisly business is an interesting facet to the film, to the point where I felt that this element should potentially have been the narrative focus, rather than the resultant biopic. Personally, I’d rather that a film featuring the Master of Suspense lives up to the moniker: why not have him as the lead in his own thriller, embroiled in an actual murder committed on his set?
While Hitchcock is an entertaining, informative and humorous watch, it generally fails to break out of its own self-imposed limitations. Worth a look for Hitchcock fans and those after an easy, light hearted 98mins of entertainment.