Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hitchcock wouldn't see this film.

Movie Review: Hitchcock

Director: Sacha Gervasi

Reviewed: 26 November 2013

jamesintexas rating--**

Hitchcock proves unworthy of its eponymous subject, focusing its energies on profile shots of an obese,   make-up laden Anthony Hopkins as the director but offering little insight into the mind of one of the greatest directors of all-time. The mind behind Vertigo, North By Northwest, and Psycho is seen in glimpses in Sacha Gervasi's film, but ultimately, it seems unsure of where to go and what to be. Set in the late 1950's during a post-Vertigo malaise, Hitchcock breaks his drifting ennui after reading the book that would become Psycho as well as learning of the horrific murderers of Ed Gein. Collaborating with his wife Alma (a screenwriter and director herself), Hitch as he is called (but not called in the film's title) contemplates the world around him through peepholes and nearly shut blinds, clashing with studio heads and worrying about his legacy. Alma struggles being the woman behind the man, yearning to break out on her own as a screenwriter with a potential project by Whitfield Cook (Danny Houston) that could lead to more. Hitch directs Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) in the shower scene, talks to Ed Gein continuously, struggles with his diet and health, and attempts to craft the first modern horror film while simultaneously investigating his wife's possible infidelity. Whew.

As a Hitchcock fan, I was entranced by the film's window into this period in the artist's life, much like I love watching the MTV videos of my favorite bands from the 90's, catching up on footage and stories that I know I would like but never have had a chance to investigate. However, the film seems content to be a series of wry punch lines, trivia claptrap, and lukewarm conflict. There is no journey into the heart of darkness here, nor any true insight into the artist himself. The film is at its best during the filming of the shower scene, with a flailing Anthony Hopkins holding the knife himself, part director and part maestro. Hopkins and Mirren are capable here, and the film wants to be more than it is. It mentions the director's famed obsessions with his leading ladies but does not go deeper. The conversations with Ed Gein are off-putting and a strange narrative choice; the conflicts are mostly inert. Hitchcock is a revered director and artist, worthy of a well-made artistic film. Hitchcock is not that. The great director himself would no doubt label this film "claptrap" and not recommend it.  I would do the same.

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