'Hitchcock' (2012) Movie Review

A competent cast and amusing direction brings us a snapshot of what it may have been like to spend a small amount of time with the "Master of Suspense", Alfred Hitchcock, over the course of the months before, during and after the making of one of the most popular horror films of all-time, Psycho. Based on Stephen Rebello's 1998 non-fiction book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho," director Sacha Gervasi's Hitchcock is both heartfelt and darkly comedic as it explores Hithcock's relationship with his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), obsessive behavior with his blonde leading ladies and hunger to captivate his audience. A tight narrative and solid performances make Hitchcock a film worthy of watching even if it won't bowl you over.

Grade: B

Hitchcock"Hitchcock" is a 20th Century Fox release, directed by Sacha Gervasi and is rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content and thematic material. The running time is .

The cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, James D'Arcy, Jessica Biel, Toni Collette, Danny Huston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Michael Wincott, Kurtwood Smith, Ralph Macchio and Richard Portnow.

For more information on this film including pictures, trailers and a detailed synopsis click here.

The majority of attention will be placed on Anthony Hopkins and the rubber latex attempting to transform him into the iconic director. While he may not look exactly like Hitchcock, he at least has the mannerisms down to make it convincing enough, but more importantly Hopkins has crafted a performance you can believe. Looks are only skin deep, as they say, and in movies it couldn't be a more apt saying as whether or not Hopkins looks like Hitch is relatively unimportant once you're asked to believe he's Hitch.

Hopkins carries himself with the appropriate demeanor -- arched back, belly out, hands held in front of him and that piercing stare. Then comes the performance -- his obsession with his work, a hint of "Peeping Tom", a stickler for details, a wandering eye and possessive nature are all attributes on display and they are made believable largely through an understanding of How much is enough?

You begin to realize how well everything is working only once it stops working and occasionally Hitchcock will take things too far. Alma will scold Hitch for his eating and/or drinking one too many times, or Hitch will be seen peering through the window shades in his office or peeping around a corner enough times for you to say, "We get it." Yet, overall, the proper balance is struck as Hitchcock's passions define him, whether they be in his professional or private life as this film comes down to being a love story as much as it is anything else.

At the center of it all, Hitchcock focuses on his relationship with his wife, a relationship that bleeds into his professional life as Alma would rewrite Hitch's scripts (often without credit) and, in the case of Psycho, step in with direction when Hitch would fall ill, not to forget wager all they had to finance the film themselves. Working in such close proximity with her husband would also avail her to his transgressions and questionable behavior around his leading ladies. To become a Hitchcock blonde meant more than a role in a film and we see both sides of the equation here in both Janet Leigh, played by Scarlett Johansson, and Vera Miles, played by Jessica Biel, and not to forget a photograph of Grace Kelly that always seems to keep turning up.

Johansson, playing sweet and innocent, and Biel, playing wise and aware, are capable in their performances as Hitch looks at both of them as objects to possess, perhaps even more than he does as actors in a role.

What I found interesting about the focus on Hitchcock's leading ladies, however, had as much to do with the performances and story as it did the look. Films simply look different now than they did in the '50s and '60s -- lighting was softer back then, the image wasn't quite as sharp and, of course, films such as Psycho were in black-and-white. Therefore, these lovely actresses of today look different than the softer, more glamorous appearance of the likes of Leigh and Miles 50+ years ago. This isn't a complaint as much as an observation on something that most likely wasn't explicitly intended.

Alma being the leading lady in Hitchcock's life becomes more and more of the focus as the film wears on and Mirren excels in the role as she takes to co-writing a screenplay with Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), co-writer of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train and Stage Fright, more for the attention he gives her that she's not getting from her husband than anything. This dynamic plays out in relatively routine fashion, which is where the film tends to lose a bit of its bite as it moves into safer, more predictable territory, but it doesn't mean the film loses any of its entertainment value along the way.

The cast fills out with James D'Arcy giving what may be the best "impression" in the cast as he plays Psycho star Anthony Perkins (his initial meeting with Hitchcock is priceless); Michael Stuhlbarg continues to be a top go-to actor this year as he plays Hitchcock's agent Lew Wasserman; Kurtwood Smith is great as film censor and enforcer of the Motion Picture Production Code, Geoffrey Shurlock, a man you can already imagine Hitchcock did not get along with; and Toni Collette is dependable as Hitchcock's assistant Peggy Robertson.

As a fan of much of Hitchcock's work I found Hitchcock to be immensely entertaining, though not necessarily instructive. It's more a film of entertainment with the essence of the man at its core rather than any kind of true "slice of life." You understand the broad strokes, even if you realize how broad they really are, which compel me to want to learn more about a director whose work I admire and whose life I realize I know very little about.