Directed by Sacha Gervasi
Written by John J. McLaughlin
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Jessica Biel, Michael Wincott, James D’Arcy and Scarlett Johansson
A love story between influential filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and wife Alma Reville during the filming of Psycho in 1959.
If this film suffers from anything, it has to be a mild case of false advertising. The trailers painted it as a look into the filming of Hitchcock’s (Hopkins) classic 1959 hit, Psycho. and that’s true to some extent, but the film really focuses on his muse, his wife, Alma (Mirren), the great woman behind the pivotal film maker. Hitchcock never really went out of style, but with Vertigo recently dethroning Citizen Kane as the best film ever and the upcoming pre-Psycho series Bates Motel ready to debut from A & E, Alfred is experiencing another moment in the spotlight. And to think there’s more than one generation of moviegoers out there that know nothing about him. That stings.
After such classics as the aforementioned Vertigo and North by Northwest, Hitchcock was looking for his next big project, and found it in the novel Psycho, a novel by Robert Bloch loosely based on the Wisconsin ghoul, Ed Gein. Oddly effective is actor Michael Wincott as Gein, Hitchcock’s dark voice of reason and instigator. Given the nature of the film, it certainly makes sense although I don’t know if any of that was based in fact.Throughout the film, Hitchcock is plagued by control issues, a standoffish censorship board, and his own affinity for directing attractive blondes. Johansson is fantastic as the famous shower scene blonde, Janet Leigh, adding new depth and history to the troubled and prolific director’s life. James D’Arcy clearly did his homework on portraying the quirky Psycho lead, Anthony Perkins. His time in the film is short, but he gives us enough screen time to see just how much he studied Perkins’ cadence and demeanor. The film offers many great performances from several of Hollywood’s power actors/actresses.
At the top of the list is Mirren as Alma, Hitchcock’s less than silent partner, who not only gave her all to support her driven husband, but also helped sculpt the success behind the scenes. In the end this is more of a love story, a view into an endearing and collaborative relationship that you might not be aware of. The film is rich with dark humor and self-indulgent history surrounding the corpulent icon. I should add just how great it is to see this filmed in glorious color – that alone makes the film pop. The famed director fought an uphill battle both in filming and releasing his first real horror film, mortgaging his home and sinking substantial cash into this risky genre entry point. The famous shower scene is questioned and torn apart by the censorship board as is the odd notion of showing a flushing toilet on-screen. Weird to see since we live in a time where animated poop springs out of the toilet singing Christmas songs. The world has changed so much since Hitchcock’s heyday, but the driven desire of talented film makers is still a key and often ignored section of Hollywood. The world would be a better place with more people like this in the world. The film drags along a time or two, but it’s something every fan or horror and film should commit to.