More thoroughly enjoyable performances than would fit into the Oscar slate. Sacha Gervasi smacks it over the fence.
It is impossible for anybody over forty years old not to have a soft spot for the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Most of us saw his shows on TV, first. Then we saw “Psycho,” and our lives changed forever.This was a horror dream that was in a completely different universe than the mummy, vampire, Japanimation films making the rounds. This was a film that combined a new intellectualism (it made schizophrenia a household word), a blunt edged horror and a radical sexuality in one psychotic package. Truly, this was trauma made into drama.
A blockbuster success for first time feature director Sacha Gervasi, “Hitchcock” is an unbelievable leap forward for a man whose only previous feature was the rock group documentary “Anvil--The Story of Anvil.” The difference between this film and “Anvil” is night and day. “Hitchcock” contains world class acting by the three main leads and thoroughbred quality in virtually all of the other parts.
Director Gervasi and screenwriter John J. McLaughlin pull off the perfect hat trick by giving the film a clean cut 1950’s feel, accurately channeling the now super-famous characters and spilling the inside dope on Hitchcock’s demons. The result is a fun and spirited mixture of gossip column reportage combined with fascinating insights into the man who invented “Psycho.”
“Hitch,” as his friends call him in the film, did not invent the film completely from scratch. He hired Joseph Stefano (Ralph Macchio) to write the screenplay, based on Robert Bloch’s novel, after Stefano told him he was in therapy. When Hitch asked him what he talked about in therapy that would help him tell the story of a psychotic killer, Stefano said, “My mother, sex and buried rage.” He was hired on the spot.
However, Paramount head Barney Balaban (Richard Portnow) refused to fund the radical new concept and Hitch was forced to fund the film himself, mortgaging everything he owned for the chance to self-actualize what he considered his finest vision. In the course of the film, he had a nervous breakdown and nearly broke up with his lifelong wife, lover and collaborator Alma Reville. The two reunited for the final editing after both were reduced almost to insanity. The result was a blockbuster of historical proportions, followed by the less spectacular, but every bit as offbeat, “The Birds.”
Anthony Hopkins does a great job as Alfred Hitchcock, but no better than Helen Mirren does playing Alma Reville or Scarlett Johansson does playing Janet Leigh. The three add almost equal parts, the fourth key ingredient being the fascinating story itself, in making one of the best films of the year.
Toni Collette plays Peggy, Hitchcock’s girl Friday, in the role that should be nominated for sexiest secretary of the year. Perhaps, the sexiest of the decade so far. If the three main leads shoulder most of the screen time, it is parts like Colette’s and James D'Arcy (playing Anthony Perkins) that make the film sparkle.
When the scene opens with the camera squarely on D’Arcy and Hitch begins interviewing the seemingly timid Perkins, the audience gasped with awe. It is not only as if Perkins has been reborn, it is as if Norman Bates suddenly walked into your living room. D’Arcy is that good.
Walt Disney refused to allow Hitch to film in Disneyland for his TV show, because Hitchcock made "that disgusting movie “Psycho.” What further recommendation could you ask? Don’t miss this shimmering star of a film about the greatest filmmaker to never win an Oscar (except, eventually, the Lifetime Achievement). Jeff Cronenweth (“Fight Club” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) provides the first rate cinematography.
There are so many great supporting performances in this film it could take up the entire Oscar slate all by itself. The suitably creepy “Psycho” genre score combined with, of course, the inimitable “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” theme, provide a synchronous and vaguely funny soundtrack for a world-class quirky movie.
The Foley artists get to do their stuff amplifying Hitch’s compulsive eating, drinking, slurping and smacking to take the viewer inside the man; perhaps further inside than some want to go.
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Directed by: Sacha Gervasi
Written by: John J. McLaughlin, based on Stephen Rebello’s book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho"
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson
Release Date: November 23, 2012
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content and thematic material
Run Time: 98 minutes