Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hitchcock is a Generic, but Entertaining Interpretation Brought to Life by Solid Performances from Hopkins and Mirren

Hitchcock (2 1/2 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Sacha Gervasi (Anvil: The Story of Anvil)
Written by John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan)
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and Scarlett Johansson

You know how they say you should never meet your heroes, well they were half right in this case.  Alfred Hitchcock is a hero of mine, only in the artistic sense, of course.  Hitch as he was referred, was and will forever be known as "the master of suspense."  His films ranging from Rear Window to Psycho, and many more, defined a genre, and the future of film.  Along with his films complex human characteristics Hitch himself has was Dexter would refer to as a "dark passenger."  Yet there is not enough complexity.  Hitchcock is a generic, but entertaining interpretation brought to life by solid performances from Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren.

Hitchcock starts with the premiere of one of his biggest hits, and most films famous films North by Northwest.  After the camera's stop flashing, Hitch (Anthony Hopkins) is asked by a reporter if he is getting to old, and whether or not he is thinking about retirement.  This triggers Hitch to rebuke the reporters question by pushing forward and looking for his next film.  With his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) by his side, Hitch moves away from a film she suggests, and moves forward with a film passed over by many based on a book entitled "Psycho."  Psycho is based on real life events about a man who killed people, and Hitch is fascinated with the man's dark psyche, connecting with his own dark and twisted mind.  Hitch pushes forward against all odds to make a film like no one had ever seen before.

Hitchcock had some contention this year with an HBO film entitled The Girl.  This film explores Hitch's making of the film The Birds, and goes further in depth with "blonde bombshell obsession" and the dark recesses of his mind.  The problem with this film is that you feel as though you are in a bad therapy session with the director.  Hitch himself said “Suspense is like a woman. The more left to the imagination, the more the excitement.” One of the differences between this film and Girl is Hitchcock is a bit funnier, and much less maudlin, which helps save the day, a bit. 

Screenwriter John J. McLaughlin's may have a few more laughs, but the film is a bit all over the place. Hitchcock does try to delve into the director's psyche, but falls flat mainly because of the interplay between the story which the book Psycho was based upon.  Hitchcock (the film) wants you to associate Hitch with the killer, and the torment he faced.  While the script does not want you to think Hitch was intended to be a killer rather a disturbed man.  The script lacks the courage, and audacity to be something more bold, something which is beyond just entertaining.  The film feels disjointed.

The director Sacha Gervasi does not seem to know which direction to take this picture.  Was Hitchcock a love story? A bio-pic? An homage to Hitch, or an homage to Psycho?  Together these elements get lost in the shuffle creating a feeling that allows flaws run rampant.  Gervasi and McLaughlin have solid pieces of a puzzle which never quite fully live up to their full potential.

The savior to this film are the performances from Hopkins and Mirren.  I dare say Mirren steals the film.  While Hopkins does a wonderful Hitch and there is depth and breath to the complexity of this man, the name of the picture should have been Alma, but tickets would not have sold as well.  Alma was always the women behind the scenes who made Hitch the director/man he was; she was his knight in shining armor racing in to save the day.  

While Hopkins was great in the role, Mirren was even better.  Helen Mirren proved that role which could have almost been secondary or should have been, stole the whole film.  With the film's quick turn around time in production I often wonder if those behind the scene lost faith in the direction of the film and turned this into a film about the women in this man's life.  The women like Mirren steal the film.  Mirren has one great emotional scene that beautifully conveys what it feels like to be the women behind  the genius.  While she was the woman behind the genius even supporting players Scarlett Johansson (who plays Janet Leigh), and Jessica Biel (who plays Vera Miles) turn in solid performances.

At the end of it all while the film is no masterpiece, and there are many problems, the film was still entertaining.  There is an element of fun, especially when Hitch talks about looking for his next picture with a bird landing on his shoulder.  When the film focuses on the production Psycho I found myself giddy.  When the film focused on Alma I found myself entranced by Mirren and her effective emotional journey.  The film offers some interesting insight into Hitch as well, keeping you intrigued just enough to stay along for the journey of the master of suspense.

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