The crux of Hitchcock may be the making of Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic Psycho, but its heart is the lifelong love story between the man and his wife, Alma Reville.
Hitchcock begins with the premiere of the suspense master’s North by Northwest. Immediately the filmmaker knows the Hollywood sentiment that you’re only as good as your most recent hit and begins searching for his follow-up. People who work with him and for him have all sorts of ideas as to what he should do next. Reville does, as does Hitch’s trusty assistant, Peggy (Toni Collette).
Yet the famed director zeroes in on the graphically violent true story of Ed Gein, a man who was arrested for the murders of two women. His story was told in the novel by Robert Bloch… called Psycho. When police arrested Gein, they found some disturbing things in his house, such as “skin” made from the women he killed that was used in an effort for Gein to become his dead mother. Sound familiar?
The Hollywood establishment begged Hitchcock not to make Psycho his next movie. It was too violent, they would say. Even his studio, Paramount, refused to fund the movie as they felt they could not distribute it. So, Alma and Alfred decide to mortgage their house and fund the picture themselves. The rest, as they say, is history. But, how Hitch got to release that iconic film is the meat and bones of the movie Hitchcock.
First-time feature director Sacha Gervasi could not ask for a better cast for his debut narrative film. He scored raves for his documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil and was more than up to the task of directing Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins as Hitch and Helen Mirren as his wife. Gervasi weaves a web that not only Hollywood history buffs will appreciate, but a wide audience as well. That is because he paints the picture as a love letter between the two life partners, following their passion.
As seen in this Hitchcock international trailer, Hopkins is uncanny as the title character. That is a difficult task, given the public’s awareness of the real man. Yet the British actor manages to bring subtlety to the performance that gives previously unseen layers to a man we all think we know. And Mirren is a revelation as his wife, who put her own writing career on hold to be a cheerleader and priceless associate in her husband’s thriving film legacy.
One of the most surprising performances in the entire film comes from Scarlett Johansson. She portrays Janet Leigh, the actress made most famous by that legendary shower scene in Psycho. (When Hitchcock shows how that iconic scene was shot, it is jaw-dropping.) The filmmaker was known for casting a certain type of woman in his lead roles and they would become known as the Hitchcock blondes. Where most were the subject of obsession by the director, Leigh managed to cut through the director’s persona and get to know the person. It is a platonic relationship that is almost as powerful as the romantic one between the director and his wife as shown in Hitchcock.
Our Hitchcock review is fascinated by this story and can state with absolute confidence that the film is one of the best of the year. It deserves a Best Picture nomination and in a town that loves to reward itself, look for this story of the making of Hitchcock’s biggest blockbuster to score a nod right alongside another film that celebrates Hollywood, Argo.