Hitchcock | Movie review
The Master of Suspense deserves better than kitschy pop-psychology.
In Hitchcock, Anthony Hopkins dons pounds upon pounds of prosthetics to play the portly Master of Suspense, but he ends up coming across like Hannibal Lecter after too many helpings of liver and fava beans. The actor’s hambone tendencies are perfectly suited to this arched-eyebrow biopic, a True Hollywood Story so cheeky and thin it makes My Week with Marilyn seem substantial. For a moment, you wonder if the film is going to be an outright comedy, beginning as it does with Hopkins breaking the fourth wall—Alfred Hitchcock Presents–style, complete with theme music—at the Wisconsin farmhouse of infamous serial killer Ed Gein (Michael Wincott). An inspiration for both The Silence of the Lambs and Psycho, Gein functions here as the director’s malevolent muse, appearing to him in visions that reinforce the movie’s reductive pop-psychology.
Though much of Hitchcock is set during the making of the director’s 1960 masterpiece, the filmmakers relegate on-set anecdotes to the sidelines. What we get instead is a heavily fictionalized account of Hitch’s sexless relationship with wife Alma (Helen Mirren, granted one grandstanding speech and little else). Meanwhile, the supporting figures speak exclusively in quips and trivia. “Compared to Orson Welles, he’s a sweetheart,” cracks Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson, in the film’s most convincing impersonation), while Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) plays armchair shrink and de facto film critic, likening the great auteur to Jimmy Stewart’s tortured romantic in Vertigo. Her diagnosis is essentially the film’s; Psycho’s climactic analysis of Norman Bates seems nuanced by comparison. (Opens Fri; see timeoutchicago.com/nowplaying for showtimes.)—A.A. Dowd