Before I start this review, I have to say that I have not seen that many Hitchcock films, the only ones I’ve seen are Rear Window and Vertigo, both of which are brilliant films. I’m saying this to let you know how much experience I have with the films of Hitchcock before I went to see this film. That said though, I really enjoyed Hitchcock on the whole. Now I won’t be making many comparisons to The Girl which was on BBC 2 over Christmas, the only thing I’ll say is, whilst Hitchcock is the better film, despite how good Anthony Hopkins is, which I will talk about later, I thought Toby Jones gave the better performance as Hitchcock but The Girl was an inferior film on a whole, mainly due to the obvious limitations from being a TV Movie and a pretty average script. With that lone bit of comparison out of the way, let’s get into my review of Hitchcock.
Now the best things about this film are the lead performances from Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren. From the start of the film, with the tribute to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, I fully bought Hopkins as Hitchcock. He gives a real feeling of respect from his portrayal of Hitchcock that fits with the traditional portrayal of Hitchcock in the media. He also lends a bit of sadness over a director really struggling to adapt to changing tastes from the movie-going public over the years and the real fear from him that Psycho would not work as a film. Even better than Hopkins though is Helen Mirren as Alma Reville. Firstly her chemistry with Hopkins is incredible, making you buy the relationship between them. Then there is the really powerful nature of the character, essentially being the one in control of all of Hitchcock’s films and Mirren pulls off the powerful nature of the character perfectly. Finally there is the inner conflict of the character over her loyalty to her husband in making Psycho or in her friend, Whip, helping him finish his book and adapt it to the screen. Mirren pulls this off expertly, especially in the scenes later on in the film when the turmoil in Hitchcock and Alma’s marriage is brought front and centre. The strongest scenes in the film are when Hopkins and Mirren are on screen together due to how brilliant their acting is.
The other actors in the film are also brilliant. Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel do a brilliant job as Janet Lee and Vera Miles respectively, really capturing the old school actress feel. I think Biel does a better job due to having the deeper character and relation with Hitchcock with Miles. Danny Huston does a really good job as Whip, mainly due to good chemistry with Mirren. The main problem though is James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins, not through his performance, which is good, but through him having very little screen-time. All of the screen-time for the Psycho actors goes to Johansson and Biel and this leads into my main problem with the film.
The film is meant to be about both Hitchcock’s personal life and the making of Psycho but both areas feel a bit under-developed. Granted, when the focus is on one or the other, the individual scenes are brilliant, mainly the stuff with the studio heads and the censors, but it feels like some elements are not explored to their full degree. The main victims though are the scenes related to Psycho, mainly there only being one scene devoted to the shooting of the infamous shower scene, the brief look at Joseph Stefano writing the script, the aforementioned lack of focus on Anthony Perkins and the limited look at the promotion of Psycho, mainly the no late admissions policy and Hitchcock buying up every copy of Psycho so no-one knew the ending.
However, there are also scenes with Hitchcock’s life that feel a bit under-developed. There are some ideas that work brilliantly, mainly the visions of Ed Gein showing the powerful impact that horror films can have, even on the people making the film and Hitchcock’s personal life negatively impacting his work on Psycho. The problem though is that the lecherous nature on Hitchcock towards the actresses is not really made clear, there are hints but it never has the chance to become the focus. In many ways this works as by hinting it this nature can be seen to be more disturbing on the whole and that factor saves these scenes for me although I did want to see a bit more focus on these scenes. Although (and I know I’m going against my promise at the start) if I wanted to see a film fully focusing of Hitchcock’s lecherous nature, I’d watch The Girl.
Overall, I really enjoyed Hitchcock, sure there are some problems with the film but it still provides a great look at Hitchcock’s work and is a pretty good way to introduce someone to Hitchcock who hasn’t seen any of his films – you know, besides showing them some of his films.
My Rating: 4/5