Film Review – Hitchcock

Hitchcock (M)

Directed by: Sacha Gervasi

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel

Three and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Films are hard to make. Funding can fall through, stars can pull out, productions can go undistributed, scripts can be re-written, endings can be changed last-minute, sets can be destroyed by natural disasters. The collapse of Terry Gilliam’s ambitious but luckless The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was captured in the documentary Lost in La Mancha (2002). Ditto the disasters that plagued Apocalypse Now in Hearts of Darkness (1991). Those that are fortunate enough to be completed and see the light of day are released to audiences who are none the wiser to the blood, sweat and tears that went into making it.

Perhaps one of the lesser known behind the scenes dramas happened during the making of a genre and film making defining classic – Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Well, unless you are a Hitchcock fan boy who has read all about the famous auteur’s career. For those that haven’t may be interested to know that it was not Hitch’s easiest film to make. What we learn in this dramatised story is that he not only put his career on the line by making the bold choice to bring this horror film to life, but that he also risked his relationship with his doting wife Alma.


After North by Northwest was met with a lukewarm reaction in 1959 (who would have thought), the media began suggesting that director Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) hang up his directors hat. Fueled by this, the master of suspense began a search for a smashing comeback. He options a book titled Psycho, loosley based on the killings of infamous serial killer Ed Gein – much to his wife Alma, (Helen Mirren) staff and colleague’s chagrin. Paramount Studios won’t fund such a ghastly story so Hitch pays for it out of his own pocket, putting himself and Alma in a dangerous position. If the film loses money, they lose their house.

Tension hangs over the entire production as Hitch’s attention is focused exclusively on the film and his blonde leading lady Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) and production immediately falls behind schedule. Meanwhile Alma, who always helps out with script rewrites, yearns for a creative outlet of her own which pushes her into the arms of writer and Hitchcock collaborator Whitefield Cook (Danny Huston).


Directors complaining about studio interference and actors moaning about long working hours can often come off a little “first world problems” – many of these people in this elite industry rake in mega bucks – but Hitchcock reminds us of the sacrifices people make for their art. Hitchcock the man is portrayed as a risk taker and genius (he was) but also with plenty of inner turmoil, grappling with his choices, not always confident. Such a reminder of sacrifices for art and how ambition can sometimes make people batty offers much-needed depth to a story that sometimes slips into melodrama and struggles to elevate itself above TV movie grade.

Hopkins, front and centre and inches deep in prosthetics, looks the part the way he walks and holds himself, but his speech pattern feels forced. When the script calls on him to emote, he does as usual, nail it. Strangely, it is Johansson in a supporting role as Psycho star Leigh that stands out, projecting a presence and spirit of the charming beauty over delivering an imitation. There are some unusual touches (Hitch’s conversations with a ghostly Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) and the presumably fictional game of jealousy tug of war between Hitch and Alma) that add an edge to the Hollywood ins and outs that feature such delicious moments as Hitch’s fight with censors over showing a flushing toilet for the first time in film history. Hitchcock almost flushed his career down the toilet making Psycho, but fortunately for him, his wife and audiences, it paid off.

Hitchcock is released in Australian cinemas on January 10, 2013.

One Response to “Film Review – Hitchcock”

  1. I’m not one of Hitchcock’s biggest fans yet, but surely I think that Psycho was an amazing piece of film. So I’m definitely going to watch this one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: