Director: Sacha Gervasi
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel
Running Time: 99 minutes
Release: Feb 8th
There’s nothing to suggest that Anthony Hopkins has been resting on his laurels. His body of work, stretching back almost thirty years, has seen him in some questionable films—Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula immediately coming to mind. However in recent years it’s becoming more and more noticeable when he’s enjoying himself on screen and when he isn’t. Looking at Thor, it’s reasonably clear that he is, in fact, there for the paycheck. Compare that with the underrated Fracture and it’s immediately more noticeable that he’s having fun. With Hitchcock, we have a film that falls somewhere in the middle. Set directly after the premiere of North By Northwest, it follows the troublesome production behind his masterpiece, Psycho, and the tumultuous relationship between Hitchcock and his wife, his colleagues and the studio system itself.
Hopkins, as mentioned, is always a delight to watch when he’s invested in a role and enjoying himself. Gleefully donning the fat-suit and mimicking Hitchcock’s drawl, the draw of the film is in his performance. While it’s not on par with Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln, it’s a decent effort by Hopkins. There are also clear parallels between Hitchcock and Hopkins—both are considered over-the-hill by their peers and the industry, but still want to challenge and fulfil themselves. Helen Mirren, likewise, is graceful and elegant as Hitchcock’s wife, Alma Revill. Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel are both in relatively minor roles, as Janet Leigh and Vera Miles respectively. All performances, by and large, are decent enough although there’s a certain haminess to them that may or may not be intended. As well as this, some of the plot devices—Hitchcock finds himself talking to an apparition of Ed Gein, the inspiration behind Norman Bates—are a little over-the-top and cheesy. It could be that the director and screenwriters are, like Hopkins, trying to mimic Hitchcock’s style. Some scenes are definitely riffing on as much.
Sacha Gervasi, in directing his first narrative film, has started off with a reasonable attempt. The flourishes here and there, although not his own, are well-directed and handled with care. The film moves along at a good pace and never lingers unnecessarily. However, when compared to the recent HBO film The Girl, this portrayal feels altogether more light-hearted. Hitchcock is imbued with a sense of wit and humour, wryly poking fun at the man himself, whereas The Girl is far more serious, darker and, admittedly, more balanced. The Hitchcock in this film is more likeable, accessible and softer than previous portrayals. In all, Hitchcock is a decent if uneven biopic that’s good fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.