You’ll smile at the bookending of this: Anthony Hopkins in fat-suit and prosthetics mimicking Hitchcock’s famous bookendings in “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (“Good eev-e-ning”). But it’s the making of Psycho that’s the focus of the film, which is based on Stephen Rebello’s book. A former clinical therapist, Rebello had a special interest in not only Hitchcock and psychological thrillers, but also 50s Hollywood, and his recounting of the film’s production is highly regarded.
Sacha Gervasi’s film is an entertaining realisation of that, showing how Psycho began as Hitchcock’s response to a reporter’s suggestion that at 60 it was time he retired; the obstacle course of financing, studio politics and censorship; and its ultimate triumph. A sense of that Hollywood era of filmmaking and lifestyle is nicely implied, as are the stars of the film by today’s generation of actors. And woven through is Hitchcock’s relationship with Alma Reville, the assistant director who became his wife and much more of a professional partner than that era ever acknowledged. Their personal battles and Hitchcock’s flaws and obsessions are used to add an emotional layer to the mechanics of the making of the film, and although this works technically, their character journeys don’t flow naturally out of it. In the end, the adaptation is better as a dramatising of the production, and of giving Alma her due, than of delving deeply into character.
Hopkins does a passable Hitchcock, if not quite capturing his droll, blackish take on life. As Alma, Helen Mirren is as competent as ever, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that it’s Helen Mirren and not the Plain Jane Alma was reputed to be.
OPENS FEBRUARY 7
HITCHCOCK, directed by Sacha Gervasi
Films are rated out of 5: 1 = abysmal; 5 = amazing