Friday, December 14, 2012

HITCHCOCK Has The Chops, Yet Doesn’t Quite Cut It

Opening today at a motion picture palace near you:

HITCHCOCK (Dir. Sacha Gervasi, 2012)

Anthony Hopkins’ impersonation of Alfred Hitchcock is effective in small doses, like, say in this “Turn Your Phones Off” PSA, and in some short scenes early on in Sacha Gervasi’s new biopic HITCHCOCK, but the longer the camera lingers on him, the more he’s just Hopkins in a fat suit with prosthetic make-up.

The makeup, mainly by Howard Berger, is good, some of the best I’ve seen in a recent movie, but I could never forget that it was Hopkins; he doesn’t disappear into the part like, say, Daniel Day Lewis does in LINCOLN, he just does a good but far from pitch perfect impression of the master of suspense, and the best I can say is that it’s slightly better than Toby Jones’ in the HBO movie THE GIRL, which premiered on the channel to little fanfare last month.

But Hopkins’ close-but-no-banana approximation of the movie-making legend isn’t one of the factors that makes this movie an often deadly dull melodrama.

Director Gervasi, who co-wrote one of Steven Spielberg’s worst films THE TERMINAL, yet made the excellent band bio-doc ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL, working from a screenplay by John J. McLaughlin focuses on Hitch’s (hold the cock as he says it), relationship with his wife Alma Reville, splendidly portrayed by a sly Helen Mirren, during the making of his controversial masterpiece PSYCHO in 1959-60.

The storyline is largely a behind every great man there’s a woman scenario as Mirren’s Alma provides Hopkins’ Hitch with every great idea that he needs to make his classic, right down to the idea to kill off the leading lady after the first 30 minutes. The leading lady is Janet Leigh, played by Scarlett Johansson, who doesn’t strongly resemble Leigh, but still captures her iconic image. James D’Arcy has a more accurate depiction of Anthony Perkins going on, but we spend so little time with him that it doesn’t make much impact.

Hitch has to deal with resistance from the studio, because of, you know, “Oh, God, Mother! Blood! Blood!” in the form of evil caricatures of Paramount studio heads (played by Richard Portnow and Kurtwood Smith sneering with all their might), which forces him to have to fund the film out of his own pocket.

This, plus Mirren’s flirtation with writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), strains the marriage, but the stakes never feel very high here.

We don’t believe that Mirren is actually going to cheat on Hopkins, and we don’t think his fantasies about his blond leading ladies is going to be anything but fantasies, so, despite both brilliant British actor’s ace acting chops, neither story-line has much pull.

Only in a scene set during PSYCHO’s premiere, in which Hitch from the theater’s lobby, mimes conducting the audience’s screams along with Bernard Herrmann’s score in the film’s famous shower murder scene, does HITCHCOCK have fun with its material.

Otherwise, it feels like a standard movie made for TV (just a notch above the HBO biopic I previously mentioned), with very little cinematic oomph. 

This is extremely evident in the film’s framing device involving Hitch breaking the fourth wall and addressing the camera like on his  Alfred Hitchcock Presents to open and close the film, and in a running thread that has 
Hitch being haunted by Michael Wilcott as serial killer Ed Gein, the inspiration for PSYCHO’s Norman Bates. These are nice ideas, but like everything else here, they never go anywhere.

You don’t need to have seen PSYCHO in order to follow what’s happening in HITCHCOCK, but if you haven’t seen PSYCHO, then what are you doing considering going to see this mediocre movie, this glorified dramatization of a “making of” featurette? Go watch PSYCHO!

More later…


Dan O. said...

Good review Daniel. Not a perfect movie, but in terms of entertainment, it's a lot of fun and you could do a lot, a lot worse around this time. Hopkins is great and I think he has some Oscar-buzz going for him, but I also highly doubt he'll be getting a nomination.

ABTC said...

nice post
thanks for sharing