A limited biopic homes in on the time spent by Hitchcock finding, funding and shooting Psycho.
Turning 60, the master of suspense (Anthony Hopkins) is in search of a challenge and finds it in a book about that most infamous of Mummy’s boys: the Wisconsin body-snatcher Ed Gein.
Telling a story about the making of an already famous story is problematic. Director Sacha Gervasi chooses the relationship between Hitchcock and his wife, the screenwriter and editor Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), as a narrative framework. Success depends on their performances – and the implied privileges of fly-on-the-wall insights into an iconic figure and film. As Hitchcock, Hopkins is almost ridiculously convincing. Portly, bald and insecure, he indulges every whim deemed creative: from lusting covertly after his leading lady (Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh) to insisting on a sexually charged project that the entire industry – including his wife – is extremely leery of taking on.
The supporting performances by Mirren, Johansson and secretary Toni Collette tally with those of professional women in 1960 as they orbit the master in varying degrees of dependence. But by pulling so ferociously on all the stops of his considerable skills, Hopkins turns what might have been an ensemble effort into a one-man-show that overwhelms both plot and atmosphere.
Hitchcock | Directed by Sacha Gervasi (USA 2012) with Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Toni Collette.