Part love story and part a peek behind-the-scenes, “Hitchcock” provides an exciting and insightful look into the challenges the eponymous figure and “Master of Suspense” faced while making “Psycho,” that even the legendary filmmaker would have been proud to see. As a child, I had only heard of Hitchcock’s name as many times as “Psycho” was mentioned. Even after watching the iconic masterpiece in my second year of university, I still didn’t understand what the director’s work meant.
It wasn’t until I enrolled in a film course focusing on Hitchcock prior to graduation that I learned a great deal about his filmmaking approach. So, as a newly christened fan, it was impossible for me to say no to a film revolving around the making of one of his most famous works and the director’s moments in life during that time.
Pure excitement drove me to keep a close eye on “Hitchcock” months before attending a screening, and excitement is what I still feel now.
Following the success of “North by Northwest,” Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) decides to make an adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel, “Psycho,” as his next project. With his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) as his staunchest supporter, he sets about creating what will eventually become the groundbreaking horror thriller we know today.
Intent on proving that his age hasn’t diminished his ability to make a film, Hitchcock struggles against the studio executives and censors who oppose him, and all the while his marriage is put to the test every step of the way.
Based on Stephen Rebello’s book, “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” the film delves into every stage of the creation most moviegoers associate with the director. All stages of “Psycho”— development, pre-production, production, post-production and distribution — are covered in thorough detail; the real filmmaker would have wanted such a tribute to him handled in a meticulous manner.
Whether it was Bloch’s novel reaching Hitchcock’s ears or the Paramount higher-ups expressing reluctance toward the project; the infamous shower scene undergoing rehearsals or Alma editing the footage, hardly anything about how “Psycho” came to fruition escapes the audience’s prying eyes. The references made to the director’s other films and TV show are an extra treat for Hitchcock fans, as well as an excellent introduction for the uninitiated.
Making “Psycho,” however, is only half of what this film has to offer; the other half explores the relationship between the director and his wife.
When you have two Academy Award winners in the same project and sharing a large number of scenes together, chances are you won’t be disappointed by what you see. The dynamic between Hopkins and Mirren is as seamless as a film reel travelling inside a projector; every emotion on their faces whenever they argue against, confide in, and collaborate with each other is present from start to finish.
Hopkins’ dogged pursuit for the titular role certainly pays off in his demeanor and physicality, but Mirren’s powerful presence reminds us that it takes two to create something eerily wonderful.
Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel deliver what is expected of them as the box office beauty Janet Leigh and the oh-what-could-have-been Vera Miles, respectively. James D’Arcy is the spitting image of Anthony Perkins, right down to his speaking voice and the Norman Bates mannerisms he utilizes.
Toni Collette demonstrates a strong sense of loyalty in her portrayal of Peggy Robertson, the director’s trusted assistant.
But it is the gravelly-voiced Michael Wincott who steals the show during the few scenes he appears in as Ed Gein, the real-life murderer who inspired “Psycho” and doubles as Hitchcock’s shoulder devil.
I must say, it’s interesting to see a film pay meticulous attention to how one of cinema’s most acclaimed masterpieces came to life, and to see the creation play itself out in an orderly fashion is the greatest reward anyone could ever ask for.
If you ever come across “Hitchcock” in theaters, see it right away.
When: Opens Nov. 23
Where: Limited Release
Run time: 1 hour 38 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content and thematic material.