A simplistic, judgemental and smug portrayal of the legendary director, starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren
A master of cinematic surprise and misdirection is here subjected to a portrait that tells its audience what’s going on at every turn. One might suppose the man to be turning in his grave, had prurient pathologisation of him and his relationships with actors not become somewhat de rigueur of late. Based on Stephen Rebello’s Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, this film goes so far as to give the director an imagined confidante in the form of Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the killer who partly informed Psycho’s tragic monster Norman Bates. It’s a ludicrous leap of logic and credibility, not to mention a hefty insult to a real man’s memory. Hitchcock fancied gorgeous actresses, got a thrill out of making them afraid, and flaunted both inclinations in his wife’s face. None of that’s particularly nice, but it hardly justifies aligning him with a multiple murderer and graverobber who made belts out of human nipples.
As ‘Hitch’ (‘Hold the “cock”,’ as he cheekily reminds people), Anthony Hopkins is impeded by a make-up job that restricts his facial movement while making him look less like the film’s subject than like a bad waxwork thereof. Supporting performers do better impersonations – Scarlett Johannson is particularly impressive as Janet Leigh – with the exception of Helen Mirren, who plays Hitchcock’s wife Alma exactly the way that she plays every role: as Helen Mirren. But no-one is a character: they’re to a man mere mouthpieces for an astonishingly cloddish script. ‘I guess he’s like any great artist,’ offer’s Alma’s fancyman Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) at one point, ‘impossible to live with, but it’s worth the effort!’ Alma, meanwhile, reliably has all of Hitchcock’s most famous ideas for him, coming out with convenient whims like ‘Kill her off after 30 minutes!’ and ‘Imagine the duality [Anthony Perkins] could bring to the part!’ This is Hitchcock for a tabloid audience: simplistic, judgemental, smug and pat. Rewatch the actual films instead.
General release from Fri 8 Feb.