Alfred Hitchcock was the Steven Spielberg of his day, even before the term blockbuster was invented he became one of the few directors more famous than the movie or stars it contained.
Like now, any director is only as good as their last feature and in 1959 Hitchcock was struggling to find his next project. Eventually alighting on “Psycho”, a lurid horror story based on the book by Ed Bloch, itself based on the crimes of killer Ed Gein, much to the dismay of his wife, agent and studio.
Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) decides to finance the project himself and battles with the censors and himself on how to bring his vision to reality. Whilst the film uses the framework of the making of “Psycho”, really this a love story between an ageing married couple who know each other too well.
The film also attempts to pull Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), Hitchocks long suffering wife into the spotlight and give her the credit she deserved in Hitchcock’s achievements.
The story follows the films production, doubts and eventual colossal success. We have the benefit of fine supporting actors, Scarlett Johanssen as Janet Leigh of shower scene fame. Jessica Biel, Danny Huston and Toni Collette as starlet, potential Alma suitor and long suffering assistant to Hitchcock in that order.
Hopkins plays Hitchcock with a twinkle in his eye and is almost unrecognisable in a “Fat suit” and quite superb make up. Mirren is as delightful as ever, most notably in the scene where they decide what to do with the heroine and main star.
The story is slight and is arguably not helped by Hitchcock’s visions and on screen interaction with the killer Ed Gein. Whilst there is some purpose to these, they are confusing and distracting for the audience. Hitchock’s predilection for blondes, alleged sexual harassment, megalomania and meanness is hinted at here but is largely airbrushed for a wider audience. Hopkins playing him as a “naughty uncle” rather than anything more threatening.
Overall this is a worthy project, producing a film that is largely fun to watch with notable performances especially from the ever reliable Helen Mirren. This is not intended to shed any new light on the man himself but focuses more on the relationship between the two lead characters, glimpsing the love that endures through all of the trials, tribulations and temptations.
An enjoyable and relatively light hearted love story set against the backdrop of the production of Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho”.
Well worth a watch for those with an interest in the subject matter.