Scintillating performances in 'Hitchcock'
In a career spanning more than 50 years, film-maker Alfred Hitchcock redefined the cinematic landscape with his diabolical and twisted thrillers.
Audiences screamed and cowered on cue, and Hollywood courted his enviable talents behind the camera.
Yet for all that success and public adulation, he never won an Academy Award as Best Director and had to put his personal fortune on the line to commit arguably his crowning achievement to celluloid.
Director Sacha Gervasi pays tribute to the iconic film-maker in this compelling biopic based on the book ‘Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of Psycho’ by Stephen Rebello.
Adapted for the screen by John J McLaughlin, Hitchcock focuses on the fractious relationship between the film-maker (Anthony Hopkins) and his screenwriter wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) during the turbulent period when the couple risked everything to self-finance “a nice, clean, nasty little piece of work” called ‘Psycho’.
Studios bosses balk at distributing the film and the universally feared Motion Picture Production Code voices its concerns about the infamous shower scene.
“The Code will absolutely not permit you to show a knife penetrating a woman’s flesh,” warns administrator Geoffrey Shurlock (Kurtwood Smith).
So Hitchcock strikes a deal to shoot the film’s love scene to Shurlock’s exact specifications in exchange for keeping the shower scene intact.
Alma remains a rock of support through the turmoil, and she offers valuable advice about killing off the heroine halfway through the film.
“I think it’s a huge mistake,” she opines. “You shouldn’t wait until halfway through... Kill her off after 30 minutes!”
When principal photography eventually begins, ‘Hitchcock’ nurtures an obsession with his blonde leading lady, Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson).
This devotion to Leigh comes at the expense of his relationship with fellow actress Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), who was once the apple of his twinkling eye.
In response, Alma entertains flattering overtures from fellow writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), which fans the flames of her husband’s jealousy.
Pressures on and off the set take their toll and Hitchcock is haunted by the spirit of Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) – the notorious serial killer who was the inspiration for Norman Bates.
He falls ill and Alma is forced to step in behind the cameras, galvanising the cast and crew as studio bosses circle the project like vultures.
‘Hitchcock’ is a handsomely crafted portrait of tortured genius, distinguished by scintillating performances.
Mirren oozes determination and steely resolve as a trailblazer in an industry dominated by men, while Hopkins disappears beneath Oscar-nominated prosthetics.
His mannerisms perfectly capture the awkwardness and insecurities of a visionary who struggled with his weight.
Hopkins delivers the lip-smacking one-liners with obvious relish.
“My murders are always models of taste and discretion!” grins Hitchcock at one point.
Gervasi’s picture is almost as delicious and elegant.
Star Rating: 3½