Hitchcock Film Review: Alfred Hitchcock’s Biopic Starring Anthony Hopkins And Helen Mirren


Rating: CC / 40%


Summary: Bereft of the build-up Hitchcock’s films were famous for, this biopic fails to thrill.


Director: Sacha Gervasi

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel, Michael Wincott, James D’Arcy


Sacha Gervasi’s narrative directorial debut film ‘Hitchcock’ is perhaps the sloppiest and most trifling motion picture with the name of Alfred Hitchcock associated with it. A biopic on the Master of Suspense, Hitchcock is bereft of the build-up that made his pictures such a thrill to watch. Its writer John J. McLaughlin, whose screenplay is based on Stephen Rebello’s punctiliously researched ‘Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho’, gives us deconstructed tidbits brushing up each aspect of the book – his obsession with murder, the ups and downs in the relationship between him and his wife Alma Reville, his fetishistic fascination with young and strikingly beautiful women, the difficulties faced during the making of Psycho, his dreams and hallucinations (featuring dreaded murderer and body snatcher Ed Gein) and even Alma’s creative escapades with writer Whitfield Cook. The failure here is that these components don’t add up to much when put together – there is disconnect and no surprise. Had Alfred Hitchcock been alive, he’d have dismissed this film outrightly; it is neither Hitchcock in wit nor spirit nor artifice.


It opens with the director’s trademark introductory address to his audience. After the blockbuster success of his previous film North by Northwest, Hitchcock (played by veteran classical actor Anthony Hopkins in a hammy, unmemorable performance) now aims to make a youth-oriented low-budget horror thriller. ‘Why?’ question his friends, the press, the critics and the producers; to this, the clear-headed, cocksure Hitchcock replies ‘Because this time it’s I who is making it’ (not quoted verbatim so don’t bother looking for such a dialogue). The actual reason may be that he wants to prove he’s still got it in him. And so he takes up Psycho, the story of a ‘queer dressed up in his mother’s dress killing women’ as Alma (Helen Mirren) puts it. He finances the film himself when Paramount back out as producers; they simply refuse to fund a movie that kills its leading lady before interval (within the first thirty minutes to be precise). He stands his ground against the prudes at Motion Picture Production Code, who squirm at the violence and nudity Hitchcock intends to show in Psycho – the famous shower stabbing sequence and Janet Leigh’s nipple. He casts Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy), Janet Leigh and Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) for the lead roles, and begins shooting immediately after a funny little oath ceremony with his cast and crew that no movie secrets would be divulged.


He manages to freak Leigh out twice with the frightening intensity of his direction. In the shower sequence, he pushes Perkins aside, takes the knife prop and thinks of everyone he hates while making violent stabbing motions inches close to Leigh. After he yells cut, she looks shaky and distraught. He neglects Alma, who spends her time collaborating with pal Whitfield on his script. He suspects she’s cheating on him, and she bursts out he’s being unreasonable; she’s always been supportive of him, but he may not be far from the truth this time. Their relationship reminded me of Helen’s earlier film The Last Station, which was about the last days of Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. That film too lacked in terms of content, but unlike Hitchcock, The Last Station proved enormously entertaining and engrossing because it had a clearly planned concept and narrative. There is little justice done to Alma and Hitchcock’s relationship here, partly because of the lack of chemistry between Mirren and Hopkins, but largely due to McLaughlin’s fluffy, casual and perfunctory treatment of the film’s script. In fact, the film could and should have done without the unnecessarily hallucinatory scenes involving Ed Gein (Michael Wincott). It should’ve developed Janet Leigh’s character, played by Scarlett Johansson with conviction and sincerity, further instead of shoving her into the picture every now and then like a poorly written character who was only included the actress playing it was the producer’s daughter or girlfriend. It should’ve been majorly about the filming of Psycho, which surprisingly has a thoroughly marginal role in the entire movie.

Hitchcock offers little insight into the mind of the master. Its actors merely try to entertain us with wild impersonations hoping that they find some truth in the performances. But how can that happen when the script itself rings so false?


3 thoughts on “Hitchcock Film Review: Alfred Hitchcock’s Biopic Starring Anthony Hopkins And Helen Mirren

  1. Pingback: FILM REVIEW: Psycho (1960) | Lachlan J. Faces The World
  2. Pingback: The woman in the shower | 24 frames per second
  3. Pingback: Two (and Twenty) Alfred Hitchcock Quotes | pundit from another planet

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