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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hitchcock Movie Review

Alfred Hitchcock is the type of public figure for whom the term "the man, the myth" was created. With his unique voice, iconic silhouette and love of the macabre, the zaftig cinematic genius is one of the most recognized directors in the history of the medium, and his prodigious and varied filmography is nearly unparalleled. At the same time, he was also notoriously reclusive. There are the popular conceptions of Hitchcock as a perfectionist with the fetishistic obsession with his blonde leading ladies. The slight biopic "Hitchcock" aims to shine a light on the man (the myth) at a pivotal time in his career.

In 1959, Hitchcock was at the top of his game. He had a string of successes, including a popular TV series, and he just released the classic "North by Northwest". But Hitch was uneasy. "Style", he thought, "is self-plagiarism". And so, he sets out to find his next project - something to shake things up.

His curiosity is piqued by the novel "Psycho", Robert Bloch's thriller about Norman Bates and a certain Motel, which was loosely inspired by the serial killer Ed Gein. Against the wishes of pretty much everyone, Hitchcock begins the process of making what will become one of his most famous films, and one that is considered to be the genre-defining forefather of modern slasher films.

As played by Anthony Hopkins, Hitchcock is like an overgrown child. At once a natural creative force, a petulant control freak and an uncertain validation sponge. It's a playful, gleefully unselfconscious turn, and the kind we haven't seen from Mr. Hopkins quite possibly since "The Silence of the Lambs".

But as good his performance is, it's Helen Mirren who steals the movie as Alma Reville, Hitch's loyal, put-upon wife. As reticent as he was to discuss his private life, Hitchcock had publicly credited his wife as being his steadfast creative partner. Their relationship was clearly a complicated one, but the script by John J. McLaughlin - based on the book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho" by Stephen Rebello - only scratches the surface. There's some jealousy and a lack of communication but it's nothing a quick heart-to-heart can't resolve.

It's hard to know if a biopic could do justice to a larger than life character like Alfred Hitchcock, let alone his relationship with his wife. "Hitchcock", with it's great performances and winking depiction of the making of "Psycho", is an entertaining if overly-simplistic rendering of these events. It's a valiant effort, but not without a Hitch or two.

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