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Zimbio Review - Forget Ambien, Try 'Hitchcock'


(Fox Searchlight | Getty Images)

The Bottom Line
Should you see it?
No.

Why?
Lacking any authenticity, Hitchcock contains a campy unlikable performance by Anthony Hopkins and ignores real themes for cliched ones.
"You may call me Hitch. Hold the 'cock.'" Welcome to the world of Sacha Gervasi's Hitchcock, a campy, ludicrous dramatization of Hollywood legend Alfred Hitchcock's relationship with his wife during the production of Psycho. Hitchcock wants to be Ed Wood, but it doesn't have a fraction of that film's depth of humor or style. What it does have is an obnoxious performance by Anthony Hopkins as the title character within a poorly-paced, trivial story that lacks urgency or any kind of authenticity.

Boredom abounds in Hitchcock as the film tantalizingly dangles fascinating detail after detail before abandoning them in favor of something much less interesting. The good stuff: Hitchcock using his film as therapy for his anger with Paramount and the MPAA, the challenge of being a Hitchcock leading lady; the connection of Psycho and real-life serial killer Ed Gein, is all mentioned and forgotten. Gervasi's film is a fluff piece. It barely scratches the surface of a man who was Hollywood's most influential filmmaker.

Hitchcock isn't a biopic. The movie concentrates on Hitch's wife and professional partner, Alma (Helen Mirren), and how she's been marginalized by her husband's fame. A running theme is Hitch's superiority complex. He believes his own legend, but owes much of his success to Alma. The film slowly brings this about, and casts Hitch as the villain of the story. He's decided to make Robert Bloch's novel, Psycho, his next film, but Paramount won't back him and Hitch and Alma are forced to produce the film themselves.

Aside from the visual conundrum that couples the pear-shaped Hopkins as Hitchcock with the dignified Mirren as Alma, the two seem an odd match. More to the point, anyone would seem an odd match for Hitchcock considering the way the film portrays him. He's petty and insulting, a caricature of a man whose life would be a fascinating character study. Some of his better qualities are shown, his determination and confidence, but he comes off as a petty man who's hard to like. If last year's J. Edgar taught us anything, it's that people don't care for movies about unlikable historical figures.

Hopkins' performance does nothing to bind us to Hitchcock either. He's hugely overweight, recalling Danny DeVito's Penguin character, and is constantly mouth-breathing through a very distracting curled upper-lip and fake teeth. Sure, Hitchcock had a similar manner and speech pattern, but Hopkins' comes off as forced and wholly unrealistic.

It's fun seeing Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles but their roles are so unspectacular, lesser-known actresses could've been used. We get a taste of Hitchcock's misplaced obsession for his leading ladies through his broken relationship with Miles and a well-placed peephole, but it's a footnote within the main story.

Alma mentions tolerating Hitch's frequent crushes on his leading ladies during an argument, but that's as much as we get. Instead Hitchcock's main subplot revolves around Alma's relationship with Whit Cook (Danny Huston), a writer who wants her help with his script and maybe more. Alma branches out, helping Whit while Hitch is on the Psycho set all day. This infuriates the legend, and before long, we're trapped in a silly confrontation that does nothing for the film but make Hitch look like a jealous high school boyfriend.

Mirren's performance tries to save the film, but she's not given much to work with. Despite her attempts of a life of her own, Alma is swallowed by the Hitchcock monster and must ride to the rescue when the director falls ill. She threatens to become a fully-formed person, but as soon as we get close, she reverts back to being Hitchcock's wife. Alma is a dedicated, intelligent woman who yearns for her husband's respect, but it's a tired formula.

Hitchcock isn't terrible on conventional levels, it's simply a missed opportunity to do something great (HBO's The Girl is much smarter). Give Hopkins credit for his campy portrayal, he obviously wasn't snarling and going over-the-top by mistake. The fun moments are few and far between, unfortunately, and the film's tone is messy, all over the place. Hopkins gets some laughs, but the rest of the movie is pretty straightforward. A choice between one or the other would've benefited everyone involved. This is a forgettable movie about an unforgettable man.

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