Alfred Hitchcock as a character is a grand enough reason for a movie devoted to him. Set in 1960, just as the prolific director was on his path to creating the iconic Psycho, Hitchcock is a portrayal of the director at a crossroads between saving the movie and saving his marriage. Directed by Sasha Greasy (who wrote Spielberg/Hanks drama The Terminal and directed Anvil! The Story of Anvil) and starring Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as his wife Alma Reville, the movie is nothing if not a love note to all movie trivia buffs.
Reville is famously and shamefully not credited enough for her work on the Hitch’s films, and there is much dispute as to how he might not have been as great without her. He would always ask her opinion first, and if she wasn’t on board with a specific project or direction, he wouldn’t pursue it. While Hitchcock was making Psycho, Reville was helping Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) adapt his novel for the screen. Needless to say, this drove Hitch mad with jealousy, not only because he thought they were having an affair but also because he felt helpless without his wife on the set.
Just as with his portrayals of Picasso and Nixon, Hopkins does not resemble Hitchcock closely, but with the help of a few prosthetics to make him look more “corpulent,” and a screen-commanding presence, he slips into the director’s skin like a hand into a glove. His Hitchcock is witty, a workaholic and a foodie. Similarly, Mirren as Alma Reville is heart-warming, but rigorous and professional (think Maggie Smith in virtually every movie). The dynamics between the couple are skilfully portrayed by these two British acting treasures. Watching Reville try to make Hitchcock eat healthier while he hides to have his drink, is indeed a treat.
Hitchcock co-stars Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins, and Toni Colette as Peggy Robertson, Hitch’s secretary. This is pretty dynamic and fresh casting, but it’s really Hopkins’ and Mirren’s performances that you need to see it for. It will be no surprise to anyone if each ends up snagging another Oscar nomination for their portrayals of Hitchcock and Reville, and deservedly so.
Script-wise, the movie jumps around a little too much between movie history and the imagined demons at work to test a marriage (Hitchcock’s romantic fantasies about his leading ladies, for example). But overall, it is a fresh and amusing look at one of cinema’s most innovative directors, just as he is about to shoot one of the most iconic films in movie history. ■