Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Jessica
Biel, James D’Arcy, Danny Huston
Director: Sacha Gervasi
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Hitchcock is a film that was purposely designed for broad appeal. It has humor and wit, and a nice sense of fun between two legends of the cinema screen. It’s appeal to die-hard Hitchcock fans? A little harder to assess.
I consider myself the latter, and I’ve even read the book that provided the basis for the movie. While I found much to enjoy about this picture, I couldn’t quite shake myself out of the disappointment that they treated the story more like a lark than an actual analysis of Hitchcock and the period of time before Psycho when he was facing some of his greatest professional uncertainties. That, and the fact that much of what is presented in this movie, is pure horse hockey.
Anthony Hopkins plays the legendary director. His latest picture, North by Northwest, was met with great popular and critical acclaim. But at 60, and becoming more recognized for his campy TV appearances than his film artistry, he is facing a crisis.
By his side, all throughout his life and work, is his wife Alma (Mirren). She was Hitch’s greatest friend, most stalwart supporter, and when needed, harshest critic. She is not too keen on his latest idea of turning a horror novel into his latest project, but helps when she sees how much he needs it.
The studio is not keen on it either…despite Hitch’s impeccable reputation, they refuse to finance it, forcing Hitch to put up his own money. The censor board threatens to withhold the seal that will allow it to be shown. Through it all, Hitch has imaginary conversations with Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the real life serial killer that inspired the novel, while struggling to keep Alma out of the clutches of an overly amorous screenwriter (Huston).
There is great fun to be had here. The cast is first rate, starting with Hopkins and Mirren, and continuing with the inspired choices of Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and the excellent James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins. But those who wanted to see more about how this classic film actually got made and put together are in for a disappointment. The focus is not on filmmaking, but personalities. Even the classic score by Bernard Hermann, which helped make the picture the classic it is, is shown in the movie almost as an afterthought.
As far as accuracy goes, Hitchcock is about half and half. The film strives to entertain, not to inform, so take it all with a grain of salt. For the most part, it does succeed as entertainment, although the bits of Hitch talking to Ed Gein were a little too absurd for my tastes.
A serious film about the life and career of Alfred Hitchcock would be welcome, and Anthony Hopkins has shown the enigmatic director can be brought to vivid life. But that is something we don’t yet have. In the meantime, the movie we did have is an enjoyable lark…more fiction than fact, but fun.
This is a nice looking disc…the colors of the early 60s are bright and pop off the screen. Only a bit of minor noticeable grain occurs here and there, but overall, smooth and clean.
There aren’t many demands made on this uncompressed audio track, as the film is mostly driven by dialogue. The spoken words are clean and clear, but don’t expect a lot of dynamic range or rear stage usage. The plus: Danny Elfman’s score, which hints here and there at Bernard Hermann’s classic work.
There are some deleted scenes, plus 8 production featurettes covering the cast, the score, the real life Hitch and Alma, and more. There is a commentary with the director and author Stephen Rebello, plus some deleted scenes and a trailer. A digital copy disc is also included.
Psycho changed everything, and helped an aging director find his vitality once again. Hitchcock is a mostly delightful representation of that period in life…not quite accurate enough to be history, but a great look at a moment in the movies that MADE history.