h i t c h c o c k
8th February 2013
Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren
Hitchcock is having a moment again, with two somewhat opposing versions out in the ether. HBO's The Girl starring Toby Jones as the corpulent genius and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren takes a much darker view of the prolific diector than Gervasi is giving us here in the lighter Hitchcock.
The view from Hedren is that Hitchcock was obesessed with her and ruined her career when she didn't give in to him as he had her under contract. The Hitchock we are dealing with here takes a much more affectionate view of Hitch ('drop the cock', he says to Anthony Perkins on set). Hitchcock's obsessions with his leading ladies are certainly broached but these are painted as unrequited yearnings, not particularly sexual and certainly not fulfilled. A little safer and more palatable than the alternate truth presented in The Girl and a wholly enjoyable experience.
We join our eponymus hero (a mischievous turn by Anthony Hopkins) at a point in his career where it and he seem to have plateaued, until he stumbles arcoss Psycho, a real life crime novel, and his obsession begins. The studios want the same movies that made them money (North by Northwest) not an experiment and certainly not a horror film with nudity. So here we have Hitch stuck in a directing rut and simultaneously in an emotional rut with his wife (editor, screenwriter and everything else) Alma Reville, played beautifully by Helen Mirren. We first get an inkling of the disappointment in Alma's life when she asks Hitch (in the bath reading bad reviews, newspaper balanced on his protruding gut) how she looks, he barely glances up from the paper and states 'she'll do'. This interaction completely sums up their relationship at this point, he has been taking her for granted for far too long and she is feeling vulnerable and neglected. A dangeous combination especially when old friend and writer Whitman Cook (the consistently wonderful Danny Huston) slides into view to ask Alma to help adapt his novel. Whit and Alma's relationship is peppered with sexual possibility and misplaced dreams. With Psycho facing barrier after barrier and his relationship with Alma threatened too it is a precarious point in Hitchcock's life. The film is both about the battle to get Psycho to the screen and the relationship problems Hitch and Alma were having; director Sasha Gervasi and screenwriter John J. McLaughlin have managed to balance both worlds, both stories satisfy and are fulfilled. Hopkins and Mirren are really showing their vast experience and immense talent here, they have some great chemistry going on; a scene in the garden is so natural, playful and affectionate you really feel like you are watching a couple who have been together decades. Mirren plays mousy Alma with a quiet and passive strength and when she finally tells the childlike spoilt Hitchcock off I wanted to stand up and cheer. Marvellous stuff.
The scenes on set are fun and played well by every member of the cast. Toni Collette and Jessica Biel stand out as Hitch's assistant Peggy and former obsessesion Vera Miles respectively. Scarlett Johansson's obvious sexuality is nicely played against the sweetness and goodness of Janet Leigh and it's a role that she suits well. The film looks great, should mention Julie Weiss for her lovely costumes and Howard Berger and Martin Samuel's work at turning Hopkins into Hitchcock.
Ultimately Hitchcock is two love stories. The love story of Hitch and Alma and the love story of Hitch and cinema and on both counts, it is a triumph. On the former, we should leave it to the hero of the story, namely the speech that Hitchcock gave when accepting his lifetime achievement award:
“I beg to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation and encouragement...and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter Pat, and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen...and their names are Alma Reville. I share my award, as I have my life, with her”.