Hitchcock (2012)

by Pedro Solá Porta López.

Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren… what could be wrong with this film? An intriguing plot that tells the story of ‘the master of suspense’ while filming his best known work, along with the performances of a great cast, seemed promising before watching Hitchcock. Despite this promise, inexperienced direction by Sacha Gervasi and a vague, superfluous screenplay by John J. McLaughlin, transformed the movie from a project that could be memorable, to an easily forgettable film.

Photo by Fox Searchlight Pictures.The action of the film takes place in 1959 after the release of Hitchcock´s North by Northwest. For his next project, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) wanted a simple, but powerful story. From there, the audience explores the obsessive working process that ‘the master of suspense’ followed until he achieved an immediate success with Psycho. Director Sacha Gervasi pays special attention to the difficult relationship between Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), and how this relationship played a significant role in the filming of Psycho.

In this film, released on Dec. 7, the audience will find two parallel stories, one focusing on the filming of Psycho and the other one focusing on the main couple. The structure of the movie leads to a feeling of unaccomplishment, with the screenplay and the direction not showing a complete image of either Hitchcock´s personal or professional life. In a failed attempt to combine both plots, the movie links Hitchcock´s personal experiences to his inspiration for Psycho. The famous shower scene, according to this film, was inspired by the jealousy of Hitchcock caused by Alma. The reality is that no one knows what the inspiration for the scene truly was. The fact that the creators of this film took a such subjective perspective about what really happened can be frustrating for a more informed public.

Photo by Fox Serachlight Pictures.Let´s face it, Hitchcock does not deserve solely negative feedback. Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren (Oscar winners in 1992 and 2007 respectively) provide the audience with potent acting. Their performances are the main reason why it is not a complete waste of time and money to watch this film. One particular dialogue towards the end of the movie between Hopkins and Mirren is quite riveting. The supporting cast, that includes Scarlett Johansson (as Psycho´s lead actress Janet Leigh), Danny Huston, Jessica Biel, and Toni Collette, does a reliable job as well. Also, for those who are sentimental, the actor that played Karate Kid´s Daniel Larusso in the 1980s (Ralph Macchio), has a short appearance in Hitchcock.

Although the artistic elements of the film do not play a central role, it is important to highlight the discrete, yet suitable music and cinematography of Hitchcock. Danny Elfman (Good Will Hunting, Milk) created a musical score that provides the movie with a mysterious and exhilarating atmosphere. Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) also does an ambitious work presenting his artistry in the scenery of the film. These elements will be better appreciated by the public in the scenes involving Psycho´s filmation.

Hitchcock, with its light and darkness, was an unsuccessful try to put Alfred Hitchcock´s life and work on the silver screen. The film does not allow the audience to enjoy the plot because the story is not as developed as it should be. The weakness of Hitchcock, after all, resides in the failure to present a clear image of the man, ‘the master of suspense’. Regardless, people will most likely enjoy watching a movie with so much hype surrounding it, in a season that tends to offer several silly blockbusters.

Images courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.