GOOD EVENING, VOYEURS
This Hitchcock biopic explores the husband and wife team of Director Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) and Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) during the filming of Psycho.
This films takes a lot narrative licenses but immediately I found this film to be a more entertaining take on the famed director’s life. Right from the start, Hopkins breaks the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience. It’s almost like watching an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents which is an intriguing way to approach the film because of the connection. Psycho’s film crew mainly comprised of his television crew in order to cut down on the budget. Plus, it was also at a time when his television series was at its height.
Bored of all the material passing by his desk, Alfred is finally inspired by a real-life killer’s story, Ed Gein. A little history on who he was. Ed Gein wasn’t technically classified as a serial killer despite the fact that authorities found many different female body parts in his home. It was because he confessed and proved to commit only two murders. It takes three murders to determines if someone is a serial killer. He also had an unnatural loyalty for his mother and hatred towards women. This and the fact that he dug up his mother’s corpse is what Hitchcock used as the basis for Psycho’s Norman Bates.
The movie not only takes us behind-the-scenes of the film but inside Hitchcock’s head during this time. Hitchcock’s conversations with an imaginary Ed Gein gives us greater insight into his morbid fascination with death but also makes Gein a type of Jiminy Cricket that serves as Hitchcock’s conscience. It’s kinda of morbid that a character like Gein is giving advice about how Hitchcock can handle the relationships around him but it’s done in a darkly humorous way that is indicative of Hitchcock’s own brand of humor that it works.
Hitchcock’s most important relationship was with his wife, Alma. She was his toughest critic and chief ally. Though often uncredited, she is responsible for helping Hitchcock put together some of the most iconic scenes that made him the master of suspense.
One such scene is the shower scene in Psycho. Hitchcock wanted to do the quick-cut scene without any music. Alma insisted that they use Bernard Herrmann’s score. The scene just would not be the same without music.
Of course, no marriage is perfect. Alma often had to deal with Hitch’s flirtatious nature with his leading ladies and thriving in the spotlight. It was nice to see her side of the story. The movie suggests that Alma may have been on the verge of having her own affair with screenwriter Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston).
Whether it was true or not, I completely understand where the filmmakers were coming from. This film does an excellent job in trying to show a more human side to these famous Hollywood figures beyond what was publicized. More often than not, the stuff that was publicized was the stuff Hitchcock wanted you to know. Here, the film tries to show us into their marriage through the daily good and the bad, through their insecurities juxtaposed with their talents. I appreciate when a film can show a 3D picture of the people they are depicting. Which is unlike what I felt about The Girl.
Just going by the way Anthony Hopkins looks, he’s not quite a visual fit for Hitchcock. The actor himself is way too tall but the way he walks, speaks and just carries himself made me put aside the differences. I especially love the insecure, vulnerable moments in which Hopkins portrays Hitchcock. It is in these moments that you formulate how you feel about the main character. He’s a bit morbid, witty, has a brilliant vision, but also an insecure boy.
If Hitchcock was the dreamer, then Alma was the down-to-earth counterpart that grounded the two. And Helen Mirren plays Alma so well as Hitchcock’s ego booster but pragmatist. Also in other ways, I also liked seeing Alma’s faults because in all the things I have read and heard about her, no one ever says a negative word about her. I believe all those statements to be true but it never seemed to be the complete picture and Mirren does an excellent job in completing that picture.
The rest of the cast is passable as Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson), Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy), John Gavin (Josh Yeo), Peggy Robertson (Toni Collette) and Lew Wasserman (Michael Stuhlbarg). Some just look the part and others do a pretty decent job but really the film belongs to Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren.
Another aspect in which the film completes the picture is through the score and the cinematography. Danny Elfman composes the score for the film he wisely decided to channel Bernard Herrmann. Also, the cinematography is done in that typical 60’s style but with a crisper focus that makes it resemble the Technicolor’s color but not that hazy vintage look. The lack of which totally does not detract from the film.
Ultimately, this is a two-part, his and hers story. Both Alfred and Alma serve as the protagonists here. You equally want to root for both them, their happiness and their aspirations. This can only successfully come across because Hopkins and Mirren have great team chemistry.