Threading a delicate and careful tapestry of the two main characters and their relationship, ‘Hitchcock’ gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the making of one of the most famous horror films of all time, ‘Psycho’ (60), and an insight into what it may have been like for its even more famous director, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins), and his wife and longtime collaborator Alma (Helen Mirren). Both lead actors do a very fine job, with Hopkins in particular really seeming to relax into the role although his accent falls perhaps halfway between that of Hitchcock and his own. The film plays with the various myths and legends, idiosyncrasies and potential problems, passions and seeds of future sorrows that surrounded the latter part of the life of the director and, in particular, his last fistful of films, a few of which – ‘Psycho’, ‘The Birds’ (63), ‘Marnie’ (64), and in my opinion ‘Frenzy’ (72), have surpassed the test of time to enter into the annals of movie legend, and are studied religiously in film schools the world over.
Danny Huston is in support, with Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel playing Janet Leigh and Vera Miles respectively, though neither of the modern day leading ladies are given much to do here other than look pretty, a task which certainly falls well within their artistic purview. During the narrative, small hooks are tied to the real-life killings that ‘Psycho’ was based on, with the killer Ed Gein being played by Michael Wincott (who also portrayed the killer in 2001’s ‘Along came a Spider’), indeed the whole film is based on the 1990 factual novel ‘Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho’ by Stephen Rebello. The release of the movie coincides with a made-for-TV film, ‘The Girl’, which focused on the making of ‘The Birds’ & ‘Marnie’ and Hitchcock’s relationship with the star of both those films, Tippi Hedren. As to who plays the role of Hitchcock better, Hopkins or Toby Jones in ‘The Girl’, that is a pretty tough call to make, and though the differences in budget do make for a more slick final product with ‘Hitchcock’, as you would expect, it arguably also makes for a slightly safer one.
The two films together make excellent companion pieces and any fan of the director, or of film history, would do well to watch both of them, back to back if possible, with ‘Hitchcock’ sequentially first. And then watch his films again of course….