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Film Studies 101
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Scarlett Johansson
Jessica Biel
Anthony Hopkins
Helen Mirren
Ralph Macchio
Toni Collette
Danny Huston
James D'Arcy.
Sacha Gervasi.
John J. McLaughlin
Stephen Rebello.
Running Time
98 minutes

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The trouble with Alfred

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Alfred Hitchcock (Hopkins) is in a quandary: he’s bet his house on Psycho, Hollywood is appalled, and he’s started hearing voices in his head. Most worryingly, tiring of her lack of credit, his wife and creative crutch Alma Reville (Mirren) is looking to go her own way.

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Hitchcock might perplex Hitchcock. Not so much the insinuation that he was wrestling with personal as well as creative demons as he attempted his most audacious masterpiece. Hitch made great and bloody hay out of his own anxieties. He might also appreciate the keen focus — rather than serenading his whole career, in adapting Stephen Rebello’s Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of Psycho, Anvil director Sacha Gervasi sharpens his attention solely on the moment a vulnerable Hitch (Anthony Hopkins) banked his career on Robert Bloch’s brew of transvestism and serial murder (based itself on Ed Gein’s mother fixation). This is a cranky, ageing genius fretting that his finest murders are behind him and his artistic partnership and marriage with Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) is showing signs of wear.

But why, Hitch might grumble, the placid direction and winsome air of old Hollywood tittle-tattle? Well-intentioned but shallow, Gervasi’s film has the blanched, TV-movie complexion of a drama that has turned out a yarn. And given that he was cinema’s great provocateur, Hitch would surely fume, why the hackneyed diagnosis? Gervais seems caught in two minds: psychoanalysis and Psycho-analysis, falling back on cod-psychology. A dot-to-dot guide to Alfred’s obsessions: he had a thing about blondes (never!); he was dependent on Alma (you don’t say!); he was sensitive about his weight (really?), and he could be a bit of a bully on set (astonishing!).

At least when portraying the dare of Psycho, we get teasing, clever scenes on soundstages and in studio anterooms as the literally buttoned-down director manipulates ratings board, studio and vulnerable cast alike. Scarlett Johansson gives a terrifically judged performance as Janet Leigh, all tremulous professionalism as she holds the big man at bay. Jessica Biel adds a touching sensitivity as Vera Miles, the blonde cast aside, and an underused James D’Arcy amusingly skips Anthony Perkins to go straight for Norman Bates.

Here, surely, is the place to ‘discover’ Hitch, at the dark heart of his creativity. Not in the juvenile paraphernalia of having him spar with a surly Gein (Michael Wincott) in the recesses of his subconscious, not leering through a spyhole to Vera’s dressing room (how he loved to watch!), and not in the soapy psychodrama of an ornery marriage, even if Mirren relishes the chance to spruce up dowdy Alma with her eloquent furies and sexy perspicacity; the secret difference between a good director and a great one.

Hopkins might argue, entirely fairly, that his is an interpretation of the man, not mimicry. Just as his beetling Nixon or snide Picasso (fuse those livewires and you somehow get Hitch) sought only their spirit, he draws a familiar outline. But this portly, pouty director fashioned his unlikely frame and puppy-dog manner into a Hollywood brand, and if you know him, you can’t shake him. Comparisons keep welling to the surface: how Hopkins’ eyes are too probing, his presence too superior, and his speech too quick and agitated for Hitch’s dawdling delivery, paced to an afternoon stroll. Hopkins is wily and entertaining, but never convincing.

Much the same could be said for Hitchcock the movie. There are cursory comic pleasures in the skirmishes between studio and quarrelsome filmmaker, wife and defiant husband, blonde and lascivious director, but Gervasi only succeeds in revealing the surface.

Hitchcock for dummies: brisk, jolly, well-played but oversimplified.

Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Average user rating for Hitchcock
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"Why do they do it, I wonder... why do they always betray me?"

Quirky and fast-paced, Hitchcock (the film, not the man) maintains too impersonal a distance from its subject matter to be very engaging and, consequently, amounts to little more than a diluted retrospective of its central figure. The man was a legend. The movie is something else entirely... a mindless mishmash of mirth and melodrama. Still worth a look though. ... More

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Posted by movienut707 at 23:54, 06 October 2013 | Report This Post

Watched tonight: tp:// al_tt_1]Hitchcockhe story behind the making of Hitch`s biggest succes, Psycho. How does he find the story, how does he handle with stubborn studio execs and what effect does the production have on his personal life? Let`s start with the positives: I really enjoyed seeing all those famous elements from Psycho again, this time from another angle. That was a party of recognition, with a great eye for detail. Anthony Hopkins is fant... More

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Posted by TheGodfather at 22:31, 22 May 2013 | Report This Post

RE: too... meh

In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock opens his latest film North By Northwest to considerable success, but is troubled by a reporter’s insinuation that it is time to retire. Seeking to reclaim the artistic daring of his youth, Alfred turns down various film proposals in favour of an adaptation of a lurid horror novel called Psycho by Robert Bloch, which is based on the crimes of the a serial killer named Ed Gein. Alfred’s wife and artistic collaborator, Alma, is initially against the idea but warms to it ... More

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Posted by Dr Lenera at 12:18, 16 February 2013 | Report This Post

too... meh

I found the Ed Gein parts to be the most interesting pieces, would have liked to see a far darker and sexier version of this. Hopkins is ok, but doesn't really sound like Hitch and occasionally he drops the accent/voice all together! It's a bit of a missed opportunity, but it makes me want to visit Hitchcock films again, so it's not all bad. ... More

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Posted by tysmuse at 17:15, 10 February 2013 | Report This Post

Good Stuff, Hold the Cock...

I really enjoyed Hitchcock. It was pulpy and fun and never boring. I'd like a proper biopic, but this was good for a Saturday evening Cineworld trip :-) ... More

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Posted by HulkySmashSmash at 22:32, 09 February 2013 | Report This Post

Moments of brilliance, moments of mundanity. I felt that the performances really carried this film as the threadbare and 'Hitchcock for Dummies' script mainly let the film down. Upsettingly mediocre ... More

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Posted by danfacey711 at 19:18, 08 February 2013 | Report This Post



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Posted by chrisdagnall at 19:07, 08 February 2013 | Report This Post

Very pleasantly surprised by this.

Hopkins is, for the most part, on good form balancing the light and dark sides of Hitchcock. As an audience, you're not persuaded to love or hate him, just be intrigued and observe. A great exercise in filmmaking. ... More

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Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 23:12, 04 February 2013 | Report This Post

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