In 1959, for many Americans, Alfred Hitchcock was just as familiar as a TV personality as he was as a movie director. In “Hitchcock,” we get both personas.
The movie, starring Anthony Hopkins in the title role with Helen Mirren as his wife Alma, tells the story of the financing, filming and opening of Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” The film opens and closes with Hopkins as Hitchcock delivering his trademark dry humor as he directly addresses the audience, exactly like Hitchcock did on his “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” TV show.
Hopkins does not particularly resemble Hitchcock, but his portrayal of the large man with the large ego is delivered with a clever mix of gravitas and fun. His relationship with his wife, and her collaboration on a screenplay with a writer played by Danny Huston, provide a good portion of the film’s story. The story of getting “Psycho” made is the other main plot element.
Throughout the movie we see Hitchcock in fantasy segments watching and talking to Ed Gein, the real life man whose odd behavior was the inspiration for “Psycho’s” Norman Bates. We see Hitchcock coaxing terror from Janet Leigh, played by Scarlett Johanssohn, during the filming of the iconic shower scene. We see him reveling in the response from the audience at the film’s premiere.
Hopkins and Mirren are both excellent in this glimpse at their personal and professional lives in late ‘50’s Hollywood. Could they be in line for Oscar nominations? The movie industry loves movies about the movie industry, so the possibilities are good.
Many of us, especially baby boomers, recall the first time we saw “Psycho,” whose story and ending had profound effects on audiences. (I saw it in my dorm cafeteria as a college freshman.) While “Hitchcock” won’t have the same impact as “Psycho,” the characters, story and storytelling are all good. No surprise ending to this review: I like it!