In the past year there have been two releases about the great master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. One was a TV film (The Girl) with Toby Jones playing the director, and the other is the new cinematic release from Sacha Gervasi - Hitchcock - with Anthony Hopkins in full prosthestics as Hitch himself. Following Gervasi's rock-doc Anvil: The Story of Anvil this is a decidedly bigger affair, with an A-list cast and Hollywood backing - the boy did good.
Like Lincoln, another current release about a great historical figure, Gervasi has approached Hitchcock's story by using a microcosm of his life to tell the tale. In Lincoln we had the politics of the Thirteenth Amendment to show the inner battles, trials and tribulations of the great American President, and here we have the filming of Pyscho to analyse Hitch's relationship with his wife, Hollywood, actors and his own inner self.
The premise is fairly simple: upon completing a stint of successful works, Alfred Hitchcock searches for his next project. Stumbling across a gruesome novel by Robert Bloch about the serial-killer and all-round nutjob Ed Gein, Hitch decides this will be his next project despite the objections and lack of funding from Hollywood. So, with his house as collateral against funding, and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren on brilliant form once again) stood supportingly at his side, the director embarks upon the challenges of making one of the best horror films ever produced. However, along the way he loses favour with his wife and starts to hear voices in his head, and soon his life starts to play out like one of his films.
Gervasi has certainly delivered a very entertaining film, and Hopkins' take on the British maestro is uncanny in places, with extremely good use of his hands throughout the film, and a well-researched tone of voice. The main reservation I have is to do with the supporting cast and Hitch's life itself. Aside from Mirren, the women are sadly underused, with Jessica Biel barely more than a footnote to remind the audience Hitch fell out with Vera Miles, and Scarlet Johansson not much more than that as Janet Leigh - who also serves as a mild interest of affection (as Hitch had with all his leading blondes). The film is steered completely by Hopkins and Mirren, who are both brilliant, although sadly it felt as though their performances would have been better served in a deeper study of the Hitch, maybe a greater scope of his life would have been more inquisitive - a straight-up biopic. Don't get me wrong, Hitchcock does manage to entertain, and is a very enjoyable watch, but for someone so culturally important to the medium of film, and to suspense and horror in particular, it could have been so much more than it was.
Nevertheless, Gervasi has brought us something of a raucous look at Hitchcock and his place in Hollywood, and the script has some devilishly good wordplay, and Hopkins delivers these lines with aplomb. Rather than a study of Hitchcock and his works, it looks more at his relationship with Alma, who served as his humble editor, writer, co-director, co-ordinator and consigliere, and Gervasi's film looks at Alma almost as much as the great man himself. It's like the old adage goes: behind every great man is a woman. 3/5