There’s so much history about Alfred Hitchcock out there it’s hard for any moviegoer to imagine what another film about him might reveal. That’s considering several other films, TV bios and books have pretty much tapped the well.
So it was somewhat smart of screenwriters John J. McLaughlin and Stephen Rebello (based on Rebello’s 1990 book Alfred Hitchcock and The Making of Psycho) to focus the new Hitchcock around the making of Hitchcock’s Psycho. The 1960 film with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh – not the remake in 1998 with Vince Vaughn and Ann Heche – has grossed more than $50 million.
Johansson, Hopkins, Mirren
The movie theme of sexuality and murder is part of the new film. Hitchcock – played by an overstuffed Anthony Hopkins – is having an arduous struggle with Paramount over the making of Psycho. They don’t think it’s worth a risk, but Hitchcock is so sure it will be another notch on his ladder that he agrees to find his own funding – which turns out to be a lot of his own money.
While Hitchcock gets more and more absorbed with his intentions, his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) rallies around him until she begins to feel neglected. She has to make suggestions about his decision as a counter balance to his ignoring important facts if the film is to be successful.
When screenwriter and friend Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) compliments Alma over and over and asks her help on a script he’s writing, she blooms. He whisks her away to his beach house up the coast where Whitfield and Alma become attracted to each other.
Meanwhile, Hitchcock is up to his usual shenanigans, flirting with all the girls on the lot and particularly chasing after his new starlet Janet Leigh (Scarlet Johansson). She’s coy enough to play up to him in order to keep the camera rolling but smart enough to avoid being alone with him.
Unfortunately, even the story about how Alma and Alfred manage their relationship creates some intrigue in the film, there’s nothing very exciting about Hitchcock, even though it has a good cast. Hopkins can certainly take on any part and even though he actually can pass for the iconic director, the role does not sustain Hopkins’ talent.
Mirren is excellent as Alma. Hitchcock was always about emotions and Mirren manages to ride the roller coaster of emotions that fuels Alma’s life. Johansson is great as Leigh. Although her role seems a little more flirtatious than perhaps the real Leigh was on that set, Johansson is adorable and quick thinking in her role. James D’Arcy doesn’t seem to fit the Perkins role at all.
Hitchcock fans of old may be intrigued but newbies will ultimately not get what it’s really about.
Photo Credits: Suzanne Tenner / Fox Searchlight