Anyone who enjoys a bit of Hollywood gossip from the good old days is likely to appreciate Hitchcock, which recounts the legendary filmmaker’s uphill battle to make his biggest hit, Psycho. Like 2011’s My Week With Marilyn, this is no sweeping biopic, or even a documentary on an iconic figure, it’s only a chapter from his great life, but an interesting one.
Set in the Hollywood of the sixties when Alfred Hitchcock was planning his next project after the success of North by Northwest, the film traces his obsession with a book that had got people talking because of its graphic violence and elements of voyeurism and incest. When the studio flatly refused to invest in his planned adaptation of the book, asking him to stick to the suspense genre, the director risked his entire career by funding the film himself.
Directed by Sacha Gervasi, Hitchcock not only takes us behind the scenes of the making of Pyscho, but more interestingly gives us a glimpse into the director’s relationship with his wife of over 50 years, Alma Reville who, as it turns out, may have been his most valued creative collaborator. The film suggests that Alma not only helped her husband with scripting, casting and editing – receiving no credit for any of her contributions – but that she also recommended adding that iconic background score of the piercing violins to the famous shower scene.
Given that this a film about how Psycho was made, it’s surprisingly light and entertaining, and even funny in parts. Anthony Hopkins, who stars as Hitchcock, never mimics the great filmmaker; he gets the essence of the man just right. But according to me, the film belongs to Helen Mirren, who plays Alma with a solid understanding of a woman who knows her worth in her husband’s life yet willingly plays second fiddle out of sheer love for the man.
The film benefits also from fine actors taking supporting roles here. Scarlett Johannson is lovely as blond bombshell Janet Leigh who Hitchcock casts as the lead in Psycho, and has a growing interest in. Jessica Biel plays actress Vera Miles whom the director has a bone to pick with, and Toni Colette is perfect as his loyal secretary.
The subplot about Hitchcock’s jealousy over Alma’s friendship with a smarmy scriptwriter helps give us a better understanding of the couple’s relationship dynamics, but repeated scenes of the director’s imaginary conversations with a famed serial killer only add needless flab to an otherwise crisp film.
Don’t miss Hitchcock. It’s recommended viewing for all film-buffs; not only an enjoyable visit to the set of a horror classic, but also the portrait of a great marriage. A deliciously good watch.