The Monocle – “Hitchcock”

Directed by: Sacha Gervasi
Written by: John J. McLaughlin
Released: November 23rd, 2012
Theatre watched at: Arclight Cinemas, Los Angeles

Hello again, Deer lovers! I hope those new “size-larger” jeans you bought during Black Friday this past weekend from eating all that delicious food is working out for you, because this week we have a double dose of reviews for you to swallow, but don’t worry this first one will be short and sweet; a sort of super special extra review for the holidays. We start off with a biopic on the most influential filmmaker in the history of cinema-Hitchcock. “Call me ‘hitch,’ hold the ‘cock.'”

It’s not perfect, nor does it play as much a biopic as it does a marital dramedy, but Hitchcock is an enjoyable and well acted look behind the scenes and into the personal psyches of Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), even if the accuracy of that look is questionable. Although the previews for the film have us thinking the story is about Hitch’s trials and tribulations during the making of his classic Psycho, which it partly is, the true story anchors around his marriage to his wife Alma and her own frustrations being in the shadow of her husband. After having failed to get the financial backing for his ambitious Psycho, Hitch resorts to funding the film himself, placing a large strain on both he and Alma’s domestic relationship as well as the financial success of the movie to be able to gain the money back. During production, Hitch comes under barrage after barrage of pressure from Paramount to see some sort of product while his stubbornness to comply to the people around him begins to trap him in his own box of egotistical coercion. Alma, being an experienced, meticulous filmmaker and aspiring screenplay writer herself, has the need to spread her own wings and become recognized as someone of her own talents, a dream that she willingly keeps on hold for the sake of Hitch. As a result, tensions come to a breaching point between the two when charming writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) steps into Alma’s life and hounds her to help him write his next script, or perhaps more.

For those thinking they’re going to learn everything about this legendary man: adolescent years, school life, filming methods, etc. will be disappointed. As much as the producers tried to sell this film as a biography of Hitch, it is barely that at all, in fact it doesn’t hold much substance in terms of a character study or even plot. What truly drives this film is the relationship between Hitch and Alma and the fiasco that is living the lifestyle of the Hollywood rich and famous. Thus, the filmmakers chose not to concern themselves with historical correctness or depth as they did strive to present this story in a fun and provocative light. With the help of a lively and witty script along with some fantastic performances by Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, they were able to provide just that.

Despite the fact makeup did a fine job transforming Hannibal Lecter into Hitch, and Hopkins delivers a well-rounded performance, Helen Mirren really steps it up above the rest. She gives Alma such range in both her fieriness as filmmaker and her anxieties as a wife that you have a palpable sense of the history of this woman. There is an exceptional scene in which Alma “goes off” on Hitch about everything they’ve been going through over the course of the production of Psycho, really letting Hitch have it, and the intensity she brings in this scene is so raw she completely lost me as Mirren and had me thinking I was seeing Alma, a feat even the prosthetics on Hopkins could not make me achieve.

Although I had fun watching the couple duke it out with their quick quips, Hitch directing his actors in a scene, and getting a tiny glimpse of his methods, I truly wish there had been more to the whole “production of Psycho” storyline than just as a device for which the marriage storyline could ride upon. Being Hitch’s arguably most famous work, I, as a huge fan, would have loved to have delved so much more deeper into Hitch’s storytelling technique and perhaps how his childhood and earlier life helped shaped that and even the way he treats his marriage. Hitch is such an interesting human being, and it is a bit sad knowing a film that is meant to be a biopic of him is made with such a lack of interest to the person himself. They honestly might as well have titled the film “The Hitchcocks” instead.

Bottom line, the movie is a fun watch, mostly due to the performances of Hopkins and Mirren and the crisp, back-and-forth dialogue they share. However, if you were thinking this was going to be the penultimate biography on Alfred Hitchcock, think again. I’m sure one day Mr. Hitchcock will get the biography he deserves, but next time they really need to take it more seriously.

Bow Tie Score - 3.5