Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Hitchcock (2012)

I finally caught up with HITCHCOCK, the Anthony Hopkins-Helen Mirren film about the making of PSYCHO (1960). As a fan of the real Hitchcock and the classic film era portrayed in HITCHCOCK, I was glad I checked the movie out, but my overall reaction was "meh."

The film chronicles the struggles of Alfred and Alma Hitchcock (Hopkins and Mirren) to make the daring PSYCHO, which had "mature" themes and a level of violence unusual for its time. The Hitchcocks mortgage their house to raise the money to finance the film and deal with censors, negative studio personnel, and Hitchcock having a bout of poor health.

Some aspects of the film were interesting, but overall HITCHCOCK felt more like a TV-movie than a high-caliber theatrical film. It had sort of a fake quality to it; I felt more aware than in most biographical pictures that scene after scene of the Hitchcocks alone together was made up or exaggerated for the sake of drama. And while Mirren had no difficulty playing the lesser-known Alma Hitchcock, Hopkins struggles a bit to maintain Hitchcock's unique persona and to simultaneously break past that and make him human. Hopkins is a fine actor but I never quite felt his Hitchcock came alive.

Of the supporting cast, I enjoyed seeing how Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel portrayed Janet Leigh and Vera Miles; Johansson in particular does well portraying Leigh as a wholesome mother off the screen. I had no idea that was Ralph Macchio of THE KARATE KID playing the screenwriter until the movie was over! Overall, however, the characters depicted are shallow representations of the real people.

Unfortunately, due to legal constraints the makers of HITCHCOCK were limited in terms of their ability to portray the original PSYCHO in the current movie. This may have contributed to the film having a lack of historical accuracy; as Lou Lumenick wrote a few weeks ago, the film strongly implies that PSYCHO was shot at Paramount, rather than Universal. This might not be a distraction for some people, but any Southern Californian who's ever taken the Universal Studios tour knows that the PSYCHO house is on the Universal backlot! (My photos of the house are here.)

The aspect I most strongly disliked: The fantasy sequences with Hitchcock seemingly haunted by a real-life criminal. These scenes were violent and disturbing, and if they were meant to give some insight into Hitchcock the person, I don't think they accomplished that. They simply distracted from the story at hand.

The supporting cast includes Toni Collette as Hitchcock's assistant, Peggy Robertson, with James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins, Danny Huston as writer Whitfield Cook, Michael Stuhlbarg as Lew Wasserman, and Paul Schackman as Bernard Herrmann.

HITCHCOCK was directed by Sacha Gervasi. The screenplay by John J. McLaughlin was inspired by the book ALFRED HITCHCOCK AND THE MAKING OF PSYCHO by Stephen Rebello. The running time is 98 minutes.

Parental Advisory: The movie is rated PG-13 for violent images and sexual content.

The DVD has not yet been released.

A postscript: To this date I've not seen PSYCHO...and having seen HITCHCOCK, I'm even less likely to ever get around to watching PSYCHO!


Blogger Lasso The Movies said...

Laura, I truly appreciate your honesty about this film. I haven't seen it yet but since I love classic films, and Hitchcock especially, I am bound to see it at some point it the near future. I think classic film fans want this movie to be great and it is hard for us to see something with this much potential fall short.
As a side note... I am shocked that you haven't see "Psycho". I didn't think that could be possible for anyone who obviously loves classic films as much as yourself.

11:59 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Glad to hear what you thought . I hope to see it soon. It has to be better than The Girl.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Silver Screenings said...

So "Hitchcock" doesn't live up to its advance hype? I'm a bit disappointed by that, given the cast - and Anthony Hopkins in particular.

I was really surprised to read that you haven't seen "Psycho". But, if you ever do see it, I'd be really interested to hear your opinion.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'd be very interested to read any of your feedback on this film! I'd be fascinated to know if it felt as artificial to others as it did to me.

There's a simple reason I haven't seen PSYCHO, despite being a Hitchcock fan...I generally don't watch horror/visually upsetting movies, and PSYCHO has always sounded more like horror than suspense to me, which was confirmed by HITCHCOCK. I finally caught up with THE BIRDS last year but I suspect that may be as far as I go into Hitchcock's more horrific material. However, I reserve the right to change my mind (big grin)...especially as PSYCHO is one of my son's favorite films and he's been trying to get me to watch it with him!

Best wishes,

1:00 PM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I have been skeptical about this film from the beginning and I'm sad to hear it plays like a TV movie. That's really disappointing. I think I'll pass on this one.

For some reason I adore Hitchcock films but have little to no interest in his life or the behind-the-scenes stories of his movies. I'm not sure why!

Great and informative review! You are always so thorough. :-)

12:07 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Raquel!

It was a definite disappointment to me...didn't really work for my family members either. We all felt it was just kind of shallow and artificial. Too bad!

I do enjoy behind-the-scenes info that's more focused on the movies -- for instance I highly recommend FOOTSTEPS IN THE FOG: ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S SAN FRANCISCO, which is one of my favorite film books of the last few years. It's amazingly detailed and a must for any Hitchcock fan planning to visit Northern California...I'd love to visit some of the locations one day. And visit the Walt Disney Family Museum on the same trip! :)

Best wishes,

12:22 PM  

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