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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hitchcock Review

Fox Searchlight
Hitchcock Review
2012, 98 minutes
Rated PG-13 for some violent images, sexual content, and thematic material

Fox Searchlight has done it again; Hitchcock is one entertaining, if slight, film.  I do not understand how Fox Searchlight has pulled off at least two consecutive years (I have seen nearly all of their releases from 2011 and 2012) with almost universally fantastic slates.  Look at this year alone.  They have released the outstanding Beasts of the Southern Wild, Sound of My Voice, The Sessions, and the sleeper hit, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  And now, they have the wildly entertaining Hitchcock, directed by Sacha Gervasi (Anvil!: The Story of Anvil), which follows Alfred Hitchcock's relationship with his wife as he makes his masterpiece Psycho.

The main reason why this movie works is the stellar acting from leads Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Relville, his wife, respectively.  Hitchcock dons a fat suit and is very convincing as Hitchcock.  He seems to touch the complexity of the notoriously mysterious Hitchcock, but doesn't get too deep (this is due to the script also).  Mirren is once again brilliant as the tough, but loving Alma Relville.  Relville, while never credited in Hitchcock's films, helped Hitchcock with his films, particularly with the script.  Relville was Hitchcock's backbone.  Mirren and Hopkins' line delivery is spot on and sparks fly from the scenes in which they are together.  Their chemistry is so great that it seems as if they really have been married for years.

The supporting cast doesn't disappoint either.  The two standouts are James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins and Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh.  D'Arcy nails Perkins.  I forgot that I was watching him and not the real Anthony Perkins.  Johansson, one of my favorite actresses, does a great job at playing Janet Leigh.  She makes Leigh a really professional, likable person who had a lot of class.

The screenplay by John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan) follows the generic biopic structure, but has enough entertaining moments and clever lines to rise above the structure and clich├ęs.  One complaint I have with the script is that it should have focused more on Hitchcock's troubles making Psycho instead of his marriage.  While this was not the intended focus of the film, the scenes where he is shooting Psycho are far more interesting than the ones about his marriage.  A little more balance would have done it good.  In addition, the pace sags a bit in the middle when the focus switches entirely to the marriage.  That being said, McLaughlin's script has plenty of fun sequences and gets the job done pretty well.

The editing of certain sequences was noteworthy as well, as was Danny Elfman's sly score.  A fun fact about the score is that Danny Elfman scored Gus van Sant's remake of Psycho and has now scored Hitchcock, a film about the making of Hitchcock's 1960 original, Psycho.

Overall, Hitchcock isn't a great film, but I would definitely recommend it, as it is certainly entertaining and will especially resonate with fans of Hitchcock and his work as it did with me.  The film has some fun subtle references to Psycho thrown  in [i.e. the candy corn in Janet Leigh's car (Norman Bates nervously munches on candy corn when Arbogast pays him a visit in Psycho)] that make the experience that much more fun if you know the film well.  One note: see Psycho before seeing this if you haven't already because naturally, there are spoilers for the film in Hitchcock.

-Joshua Handler

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