Anthony Hopkins plays legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock in Hitchcock, and as the "master of suspense," Hopkins is scarily good. The film follows the director for only a handful of months, while he's overcoming opposition to make iconic horror film Psycho. It's a fascinating subject — the studio feared it would be a tasteless slasher film, and the criticism only seemed to fuel Hitchcock's resolve. However, while Hopkins's performance is admirable and the movie is energetic, Hitchcock isn't nearly as memorable as the films the director was known for.
While Psycho's development gives Hitchcock its time frame, "Hitch"'s relationship with his wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), is also used to illustrate his life. At the time the film takes place, the couple is verging on a rough patch due to a host of things, including finances and extramarital temptations. While the marital discord makes you think of them as an average couple and Mirren is predictably fantastic, it's less interesting than the story of Psycho. Find out what else I thought after the jump.
The 1960s Hollywood setting creates a lot of fun, especially from the cast, who look like they're playing a highly elaborate game of dress-up. Scarlett Johansson takes on the role of Janet Leigh (the actress who delivers the most terrifying shower scene in history), and Jessica Biel is Hitchcock regular Vera Miles. James D'Arcy plays Anthony Perkins, the actor who gained fame (but was also pigeonholed) after his turn as Norman Bates in Psycho. The actors are outfitted in wigs, retro costumes, and accents, and though none of these supporting players delivers a standout performance, they're delightful to look at.
However, Hitchcock's actors present a missed opportunity. Janet's function is to illustrate Hitch's complicated relationships with his leading ladies, and it feels like we're going to get a lot of salaciousness when Vera warns her costar about the director and his obsessiveness. But it all falls flat when Hitchcock and Janet get along swimmingly, leading to the conclusion that Hitchcock director Sacha Gervasi was either holding back, or that Hitchcock's fabled fixation on his actresses was more fiction than fact.
There's also the creative way Gervasi shows Hitch's state of mind: dream sequences of Hitch interacting with Ed Gein, the serial killer who inspired the book Psycho. They're the creepiest scenes, but ultimately unnecessary, since we don't learn why Hitchcock was so haunted. It's unsatisfying that we don't get to know him more — and that's not really fitting for a filmmaker who created such satisfying films.