I was curious about Hitchcock not only because as a film nerd I have a reverence and affinity for the work of Alfred Hitchcock, but also because I thought that the choice of documentary filmmaker, Sacha Gervasi (Anvil! The Story of Anvil) to direct what amounts to a condensed biopic was an inspired one.
It appears to be at the beginning of the film, as Gervasi makes it apparent from the word "go" that he wouldn't be wasting our time with a long, drawn out background on the "Master of Suspense", but would rather be focusing on a specific period of the legendary director's career. More specifically, a period of flux having just come off of North By Northwest and looking to break out of his somewhat predictable repertoire of thrillers. Ultimately Hitch decides on Robert Bloch's Ed Gein inspired novel, Psycho. Gervasi ingeniously uses Hitchcock's visions of Gein himself (the ever menacing Michael Wincott perfectly cast) to propel the story, and if the film were to focus solely on the making of the horror classic and his difficulties selling it I believe it would've been much more enjoyable and ultimately memorable, as the 1960 classic really was groundbreaking film territory. Unfortunately the film spends too much time mired in a subplot that revolves around the perceived infidelity of Hitchcock's wife, Alma Reville (Hellen Mirren) and his often inappropriate fixation on his leading ladies. For me this secondary story was not only a distraction from the more interesting tale, but quite frankly more than a little boring.
Hitchcock is sprinkled with solid performances from fine actors, led by Sir Anthony Hopkins and the great Mirren. Hopkins looks more like Danny DeVito's Penguin from Tim Burton's Batman 2 than Hitchcock himself, but he gives a credible performance that captures the essence of the somewhat enigmatic auteur. Mirren (as was Reville herself) is the backbone of the film, and she's great as always. Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel give serviceable performances as Janet Leigh and Vera Miles respectively, and James D'Arcy is believable as Anthony Perkins though he is really underutilized in this film. Add in Kurtwood Smith as the ratings board's resident film Nazi, a cameo by the Karate Kid himself, Ralph Macchio as screenwriter Joseph Stefano and great supporting work from Danny Huston and Toni Colette and you have plenty of talent at work here. Gervasi does a good enough job crafting a feature as well. There's an interesting parallel between Psycho and John Carpenter's 1978 masterpiece, Halloween that becomes apparent in this film. After Hitchcock wraps on his film the footage fails to spark with an audience until he eventually goes back and re-cuts it with Bernard Herrmann's iconic score over the infamous shower scene. The same thing happened to Carpenter, as everyone who saw his film without the notable score that John would later compose himself found it mediocre at best. When viewed with his famous theme however (and the use of strategically placed musical "stingers") it became an instant genre classic. It's these kinds of details that should've received more attention from the makers of Hitchcock. All in all it's not a bad film by any stretch, but it's a bit disappointing to imagine what it could have been.