Friday, 24 January 2014
The two 2012 biopics of Alfred Hitchcock didn't exactly do the man any favours.
The Girl, which featured very good performances from Toby Jones and Sienna Miller, showed the oft rumoured unsavoury and downright creepy side to the perfectionist director, effectively stripping his genius and the reason why so many film devotees love him to this day away to present instead something a monster. It was savaged in reviews, perhaps just for that, but on the whole I found it interesting enough.
Hitchcock, is the glossy Hollywood biopic featuring very sub par performances from Anthony Hopkins swathed in a fat suit and prosthetics (but never being anything else other than Hopkins) and Helen Mirren doing her usual tiresome GILF routine rather than embody the character of Hitch's allegedly long suffering wife Alma. It's a film that, like The Girl, seems keen to strip away the man's genius by purporting that every single great idea he had (certainly on Psycho at least) stemmed not from him but from Alma. Now, I've read Stephen Rebello's The Making of Psycho on which this is based (admittedly a while back now) and I may be wrong but I cannot recall ever reading in there how it was she who effectively cast, wrote, occasionally directed and cut the film, certainly not to the extent she's depicted as doing here.
Indeed so much of the film seems so preoccupied with 'Mrs Hitchcock' that I wonder why the title wasn't that, with several long stretches of the running time concerning itself with her seeming attraction and temptation towards professional cheesy smug chops Danny Huston as scriptwriter Whitfield Cook who seemed to want to entice Alma away from her marriage and professional career with Hitchcock. What a great shame, because one of the highlights of the book is reading how threatened Hitch felt not in this quarter, but by the likes of Henri Georges Clouzot, which is completely absent from this film, reduced to Hitchcock just reading about his competition in a newspaper in a scene that lasts about two seconds.
Sacha Gervasi's direction is all gloss and shine, which at least makes Hitchcock look good because it sure as hell doesn't sound good. When the film's first scene immediately after the titles roll includes this line of dialogue, you know you're in trouble...
Reporter at Premiere of North by Northwest: "Mr Hitchock you've directed 46 motion pictures. You're the most famous director in the medium. But you're 60 years old. Shouldn't you quite while you're ahead?"
Gee thanks for that. Where would we be without a dumbed down Hollwood film script holding our hands and reminding us just what it is we're here to watch. Why, if it wasn't for that I would have thought I was watching Hitch starring Will Smith!
I suppose some praise must be made towards Scarlett Johansson who gives us a passable Janet Leigh, James D'Arcy for doing the same for Anthony Perkins, Toni Collette as Hitch's faithful assistant Peggy and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles - the one time the film allows us to consider Hitchcock's cruel and obsessive streak towards his leading ladies. I liked the flippancy of some of the dreamier aspects of the film; such as Hitch talking direct to camera or being a voyeuristic accomplice to Ed Gein but even these felt out of place overall in the film. But ultimately like a meringue this is a nice looking fluffy affair that fails to fill you in any satisfying way. This is little more than a TV movie masquerading as a big movie of substance.