Hitchcock is a farcical film, less an informative piece about the legendary director and more of a tongue-in-cheek adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, a non-fiction book by Stephen Rebello. Directed by Sacha Gervasi (Anvil! The Story of Anvil), Hitchcock unsurprisingly takes us through the curious production of Psycho, one of Hitchcock’s most celebrated movies.
Neither a documentary nor a traditional biographical film, this often morbidly comedic endeavour begins like an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. After being good-eveninged by Hitchcock we’re subsequently taken along on a somewhat charming, occasional funny and always bizarre ride which grounds itself by exploring the relationship between Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins; Thor) and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren; The Debt).
After the success of his 1959 film North By Northwest, Hitchcock is struggling to find his next project. Eventually however, the master of suspense stumbles across a little-known novel called Psycho by Robert Bloch and, against all recommendation from the bigwigs, chooses it to be the subject of his next movie. Forced to finance the film via a mortgage of his marital home, much rides on the potential success or failure of Psycho the movie – not only Hitchock’s reputation but also his increasingly taut bond with Alma.
Although Hopkins, under pounds of makeup, comes across a bit like a caricature of Hitchcock his acting prowess are nonetheless clearly on display, whether he be feeding his dog alcohol, spying on actresses through a peephole or making conversation with an imaginary version of Ed Gein (Michael Wincott). Gein, of course, is the notorious real-life serial killer who influenced Psycho and many other horror flicks and stories in contemporary pop culture.
It’s Mirren as Alma however, who gives the strongest performance in the film. Warm but stern, she’s revealed to be the hidden woman behind Hitchcock, and it was only through their collaboration that Psycho was ultimately made into the classic it is. Naturally, it all culminates in the premiere of the film. Gervasi shows us Hitchcock standing at the back of the theatre and watching the audience’s reactions to his latest work. Here, finally, the director is revealed as a maestro conducting an orchestra of gradual suspense and pinpoint thrills. A true master of puppets on any day, there hasn’t been another like him since.
Hitchcock is made to entertain, not to explain. Don’t go in expecting the director’s life story – this is an oddly humorous but charming look at the master of suspense and the making Psycho.