Given Gervasi’s fairly pedestrian approach, that there still exists such a compelling experience both comic and dramatic can be credited to the leads, Oscar-winners Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. As Hitchcock, Hopkins (Thor) gives much more than an eerily spot-on affectation; his Hitchcock is multi-dimensional, not only in his giddy joy of the macabre but also in how he thinks and what he struggles with. A moment when Hitch chokes-up recalling his early career’s passion and freedom may alone land Hopkins an Oscar nomination. Even under a mountain of makeup and prosthetics, a depth of complex humanity shows through.

Mirren (Red) is equal to Hopkins, making Alma’s strengths formidable while still revealing her tenderness and vulnerability. Scarlett Johansson (We Bought a Zoo) provides a particularly interesting take on Psycho star Janet Leigh, showing a smart woman who’s not oblivious to Hitchcock’s leering gazes yet still respects – and even appreciates – him as both a man and artist. She sees him in the way Alma does. As the tenacious but level-headed agent Lew Wasserman, Michael Stuhlbarg (Hugo) is the other supporting standout. Wasserman’s ingenuity empowered Hitchcock to independently finance Psycho, a feat that proved a telling prologue for a man who would become the head of Universal and considered the smartest studio head of his time (a record which included mentoring Hitchcock acolyte Steven Spielberg).

To suggest (as this film does) that everything you need to know about Alfred Hitchcock can be found in the frames of Psycho is certainly too convenient to be true. The redeeming quality, though, is that it doesn’t make that connection insincerely. Rather, it’s a genuine attempt to humanize an icon. It may not tell us things we didn’t already intuit, but it reminds us why we loved (still do) Hitchcock and his films.

To whatever extent Hitchcock stretches the truth, it does so in a reverent way, while never forgetting to entertain first. I have a hunch Alfred would approve, and maybe even be a little mad for never having done this himself.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: A few instances of wine consumption and cigar/cigarette smoking.
  • Language/Profanity: Three mild obscenitiies, two uses of the Lord’s name in vain, a derogatory term for a homosexual accompanied by a suggestive hand gesture.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: A woman in a bra. A “peeping Tom” moment, woman takes off bra (no nudity). Man and woman in bed together, half-undressed. Man and woman half-undressed, passionately kissing. A few mild sexual innuendos/flirtations. A few verbal references to breasts and sex.
  • Violence/Other: Man hit over head with shovel, killed. Man lays next to a dead woman. Pictures of a cut corpse. Woman’s dead body in a bathtub. Restaging of Psycho’s violent shower scene (though not visually graphic). Discussions of topics such as murder, rape, necrophilia.

Publication date: November 30, 2012