Hitchcock

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This movie reminds me a lot of Lincoln. Both of them are titled with that one name that implies they will be biopics about their lives; yet both of the films dealt with just one aspect of their life. For Lincoln, it was the last few months of his life dealing with the 13th amendment to end slavery.

I was much more excited with the prospect of a movie dealing with the period of time Alfred Hitchcock was having Psycho made.

hitchcockImagine my surprise when the filmmaker known as the Master of Suspense is shown to look like the Master of Creepiness. The way he spied on women, sexually harassed them, and ruined their careers if they didn’t sleep with him. Well, that last line refers more to the recent TV movie The Girl, which deals with Tippi Hedron trying to deal with this big-time director. We do see a few aspects of it in this film, which also feels more like a TV movie.

Anthony Hopkins doesn’t look exactly like Hitchcock, but he does the voice, walk, and posture enough that it works. It’s like when he played Richard Nixon. Within 15 minutes you get used to the caricature that seems more like a parody for a Saturday Night Live skit, and it ends up working.

Making Psycho was a big gamble. The studio didn’t like anything about it. He wanted to kill off his leading lady in the first 30 minutes of the movie. That leading lady was Janet Leigh, played rather blandly by Scarlett Johansson, who looks nothing like Leigh.

It’s strange to think that after the success of North by Northwest, the studio wouldn’t let him do anything he wanted.
Hitchcock also had to deal with the censors. The movie was rather violent for the time, and the sexual content (the shower scene) had them upset.

(fun fact: before Psycho, no American movie had ever shown a toilet being flushed)

So, after Hitchcock decided to finance the film himself – putting up his home to do it – he then had tangled with the censors.

“The only thing worse than a trip to the dentist, is a trip to the censors,” Hitch tells his wife.

For somebody that loves movies as much as I do (and Hitchcock’s Vertigo is in my top 10 of all-time)…watching a movie about the making of Psycho (starring the always wonderful Helen Mirren), should be like me sitting in the studio listening to The Beatles making Sgt. Pepper. Instead I was sitting there mildly entertained, wondering why it wasn’t better.

This is the first film director Sacha Gervasi tackled after one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen – Anvil! I was hoping Hitchcock would’ve been half as interesting as that documentary.

They spent entirely too much time dealing with the unhappy marriage between Hitchcock and his long-suffering wife Alma. She obviously helped a lot with his films, and it was interesting to hear her input. For example, when he tells her over breakfast he’s going to kill off the leading lady at the half-way point of the film, she suggests he do it in the first 30 minutes. Although, thinking about how angry she got when he was staring at all the 8×10 headshots of blondes on his desk, perhaps she had another motive for wanting the gorgeous gal killed early.

A few days after seeing this movie, it actually made me angry. I started thinking about directors I like – Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski – as well as other artists, like Jim Morrison – and about what miserable creeps they were to so many people around them. I won’t even think about the favorite athletes I admired as kid.

I’ve always had a problem with movies that deal with real people, because much is fictionalized. I have no problem when they do a scene with Hitchcock outside a theatre, listening to the strings, and screams, of the famous shower scene. He had to be talked into having a musical score in that scene – and to watch him orchestrate it from an empty lobby as the audience howls inside the theatre, was music to his ears. How can you not enjoy that? Who cares if it happened or not, it was fun to watch.

Yet, when I see scenes with him looking through peep holes in the dressing room, or I hear that filming of Psycho is on the Paramount lot (when as a child I remember seeing the Bates Motel on the Universal Studios lot, where it still sits today) — I wonder what else is inaccurate.

For example, boxer Max Baer was portrayed so poorly and unrealistic in CinderellaMan. I wondered if screenwriter Whitfield Cook (Strangers on a Train), who is shown here as a friend to Alma, is the slimy cad that is only interested in sleeping around and using Alma to get a script to her husband. That sub-plot came off as something of a soap opera, and should’ve only been included if it’s true.

Ralph Macchio (The Karate Kid) has a small role as a screenwriter, and I thought James D’Arcy (Cloud Atlas) was amazing as Anthony Perkins, although that was also a rather small part.

It was funny to me that one of Hollywood’s biggest names in scoring movies – Danny Elfman (Oingo Boingo) did a rather bland score for this film, when Bernard Herrmann gave us those screeching violins in Psycho.

The movie did a great job recreating the ‘50s and ‘60s in Hollywood, and most of the humor worked. I just didn’t think the bulk of the film felt authentic in regards to all the speculative stuff. And I’m still not sure how I feel about the opening and closing, in which Hitchcock is having imaginary conversations with the real killer that the book Psycho.

This gets 2 stars out of 5. If you’re looking for a 5 star movie, you can rent North by Northwest, Vertigo, or the original Psycho.

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