At the Movies: Hitchcock

‘Tis the season for historical biographies and while “Hitchcock” isn’t in the same league as “Lincoln” it is still a decent movie. It helps greatly when you have talent like Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren in the lead roles.

Like “Lincoln,” “Hitchcock” doesn’t offer  broad overview of the famed movie director’s life but rather focuses in on one pivotal moment in his career. In this case, it’s the making of what is probably Hitchcock’s best-known film — “Psycho.”

Looking for a project to follow “North by Northwest,”  Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) is drawn to a lurid murder novel by Robert Bloch. Hitchcock decides to turn “Psycho” into the first quality horror film. He will have to convince a lot of people to pull this off, first and foremost among them his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren).

A talented writer, editor and director in her own right, Alma spent most of her working life in her husband’s (rather large) shadow. As Hitchcock becomes consumed by this latest project, Alma breaks away to work on a screenplay with a mutual friend, Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston).

Alma’s relationship with Cook stirs jealousy in Hitchcock but that’s just one of his problems. Studio executives think the story is too risky and refuse to pay production costs for the film, forcing Hitchcock to mortgage his and Alma’s home to get the movie made. Censors provide additional headaches.

Although it’s based on Stephen Rebello’s novel “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” this isn’t a movie about the making of a movie. At its heart this is a love story about Alfred and Alma. Hopkins doesn’t look a great deal like Hitchcock but he does look more like Hitchcock than he does Anthony Hopkins. It’s a convincing performance. Mirren is equally impressive in her role.

“Hitchcock” isn’t a great biography and it doesn’t dig too deeply into its characters’ lives or psyches but it does present an entertaining and compelling story.

 

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