Hitchcock

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock opens his latest film, North by Northwest, to considerable success, but is troubled by a reporter’s insinuation that it is time to retire. Seeking to reclaim the artistic daring of his youth, Alfred turns down film proposals like adapting Casino Royale in favor of a horror novel called Psycho by Robert Bloch, which is based on the crimes of serial killer Ed Gein.

Alfred’s wife and artistic collaborator, Alma, is no more enthusiastic about the idea than his appalled colleagues, especially since she is being lobbied by their writer friend, Whitfield Cook, to look at his own screenplay. However, she warms to Alfred’s proposal, suggesting the innovative plot turn of killing the female lead early in the film. The studio heads prove more difficult to persuade, forcing Alfred to finance the film personally and use his Alfred Hitchcock Presents television crew to produce the film.

However, the pressures of this self-financed production, such as dealing with Geoffrey Shurlock of the Motion Picture Production Code, and Hitchcock’s notorious lecherous habits, such as when they confer with the female lead, Janet Leigh, annoy Alma beyond endurance. To find a release, Alma begins a personal writing collaboration with Whitfield on his screenplay at his beach house without Alfred’s knowledge. Alfred eventually discovers what she has been doing, and suspects her of having an affair. This concern affects Alfred’s work on the film, such as giving Psycho’s famous shower scene particularly ferocious ambiance even as he imagines Gein speaking to him.

Despite this tension, Alma’s loyalty is such that she personally takes over production of his film when Alfred is temporarily bedridden after collapsing from overwork. Despite this, Alfred eventually confronts Alma and asks her if she is having an affair. Alma denies it, profoundly insulted at being accused of adultery after all she has done for her husband.

Events take a turn for the worse when Alfred’s rough cut of Psycho is poorly received by the studio executives, while Alma discovers Whitfield philandering with a younger woman at his beach house. With both feeling chastened, Alfred and Alma reconcile and set to work on improving the film. Their renewed collaboration yields results, culminating in Alma convincing Alfred to accept their composer’s suggestion for adding Bernard Hermann’s famous harsh strings score for the shower scene, making it a bracingly effective moment of cinematic horror.

After maneuvering Shurlock into leaving the film’s content largely intact, Alfred learns that the studio is only going to exhibit the film in a handful of theaters with minimal marketing. To compensate, Alfred arranges for special theater instructions to pique the public’s interest in the film such as forbidding admittance after the film begins. At the film’s premiere, Alfred waits in the lobby for the audience’s reaction and is rewarded with a raucously enthusiastic reception.

With the film’s screening being so well received, Alfred publicly thanks his wife afterward for helping make it possible and they affirm their love. At the conclusion at his home, Alfred addresses the audience noting Psycho proved a major high point of his artistic career and he is currently pondering his next project. At that, a crow lands on his shoulder as a reference to his successful follow-up effort, The Birds, before turning to meet with his wife.

REVIEW:

I’m not a die-hard fan of Alfred Hitchcock, but I do enjoy his films. Getting the chance to learn more about the man is something that I have been longing to do for some time now and Hitchcock did accomplish that in some ways.

What is this about?

Iconic filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock struggles with his marriage, the censors and the financiers of his 1960 film Psycho in this biopic. Driven to prove he still has an edge, Hitchcock crafts what would become one of the greatest thrillers of all time

What did I like?

Man, myth, legend. Strangely enough, the film focuses solely on the making of Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho. While there isn’t really anything that is wrong with that per se, I would have liked to have known a bit more about the guy, but more on that later. What we do get to know is how much of an influence his wife Alma was on his career and films. I guess what they say is true, “behind every great man is an even greater woman!” It really doesn’t hurt if that woman is Helen Mirren.

Casting couch. In biopics, I have found that casting directors don’t necessarily look for someone who resembles the person they are playing. I’m not particularly fond of that practice, but sometimes it comes down to the improbability of finding someone who has the look and talent to pull it off. In this case, Scarlett Johansson plays a very believable Janet Leigh. Some may say that she should have been playing Marilyn Monroe at some point in time, and I won’t argue that, but I can see the resemblance between her and Leigh.

Levity. I was listening to a review last night where the reviewer all but called for a boycott of this film because it had a light-hearted, comedic feel in places. More often than not, I appreciate moments like this as they keep the film from going into absolute darkness. Say what you will, but just because Hitchcock created some of the great horror films of all time does not mean that he was always in a dark place, mentally. For that very reason, it is nice that this film realized he was a human who had ups and downs, just like rest of us.

What didn’t I like?

Fat suit. I have an issue with the way they changed Sir Anthony Hopkins into Alfred Hitchcock. Sticking him in a fat suit seemed to be a good idea, but watching throughout the film, it seemed as if he was very uncomfortable and forced to wobble around like a penguin. I’ve never seen Hitchcock walk, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t wobble!

History. As much as I was interesting in the making of Psycho, I would have been more interesting in seeing a little more about what it was that made Hitchcock tick. To my knowledge the few films about him don’t seem to dwell back there and I’m sure that is was this history that shaped him into the director he turned out to be.

Alma. A short side plot involving Hitchcock’s wife, Alma, didn’t really work for me, but only because they didn’t develop it proper. As it is presented in the picture, randomly we saw her and Danny Huston’s character at this beach house a couple of times and the last time he is having sex with some chick, she gets bent out of shape, goes to help her husband make Psycho become a hit, and that’s the last of it. Surely, they could have done something more with that story if they were going to include it. This is a relatively short film, a few more minutes would not have hurt.

So, Hitchcock…what did I think of it? I really liked it. There were moments here and there that I was left scratching my head about, but for the most part, this was my cup of tea. Could it have been better?  Yes, but it also could have been much worse. Fan of Hitchock, you may or may not like it depending on how hardcore you are, but general movie fans will probably enjoy. Check it out sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

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3 Responses to “Hitchcock”

  1. […] this year, I had the chance to watch Hitchcock and ever since then I’ve been inspired to watch some of his films. Unfortunately for me, […]

  2. […] most popular film. Modern audiences may remember it as being the subject of the Hitchcock biopic, Hitchcock. This is one of the films that automatically brought to mind when you mention classic horror and […]

  3. […] Gone with the Wind. I was introduced to this film through a random mention in my rewatching of Hitchcock last week. Not really knowing what to expect, other than Hitchcock mastery, I figured why not give […]

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