Sometimes Hollywood can be pretty revealing in terms of the projects that Directors pick to film. You can almost get to know their personalities just by watching their filmographies grow. Quentin Tarantino and David Fincher are two prime examples. For that reason alone, I’ve now got my eye on newcomer Sacha Gervasi, who previously directed the incredible documentary Anvil: The Story Of Anvil (a tearjerker about a long forgotten 80s hair metal band) and has chosen his second project as a biopic on Alfred Hitchcock.
It’s not a full blown biopic about Hitchcock’s entire life, but more so in the same vein as Spielberg’s Lincoln, which is just about the subject’s most important year. In Hitchcock‘s case, it’s the year that the famous director decided to make Psycho, the struggles it took to get the project up and running, and Hitchcock’s own personal struggles during the filming. If that last sentence makes the film sound like a bummed out drama, fear not. Hitchcock is full of laughs and is nearly just as fun and campy as Hitchcock’s films have come to be.
What struck me best about Hitchcock is how the film handled itself. Rather than simply crafting a film about the making of Psycho, the film plays out as if Alfred Hitchcock is directing his own biopic. Included are several third-wall breaking monologues by Anthony Hopkins (who marvelously and nearly flawlessly portrays the famed Director), and best yet, the dialogue is written and delivered with the same feel as an Alfred Hitchcock helmed thriller. A great example is a scene between Hitchcock and his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) in the kitchen, that gets somewhat heated, only to be intercut with a suspenseful loud bite of celery. The entire film is filled with these moments and it’s a total blast.
I can’t talk about Hitchcock without again bringing up Anthony Hopkins portrayal of the film’s subject. It is truly his best work since The Silence Of The Lambs. It makes me wonder just how many hours he spent watching archival footage of the director. Everything is perfectly on key. The posture, the dialect, and even that glare in his eyes. One of the best scenes, if not THE best, is one where Hitchcock dances by himself to the sound of the audience’s reactions to the premiere screening of Psycho. It’s a beautiful scene that oddly rivals another solo-dance scene by Michael Fassbender from earlier this year. I talk about Oscar noms quite frequently, much to the disdain of my friends, but here we go again: Anthony Hopkins absolutely deserves a nomination for his performance.
The rest of the cast does a phenomenal job, as well. A massive tip of the hat must go out to the casting directors on this film. Everyone truly plays their parts perfectly and feel like natural fits. Great example being Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of Janet Leigh, although the best minor character in Hitchcock has to go to Alfred’s super-dry secretary Peggy, played by Toni Collette. Nearly every face made, and every line of dialogue that came from Peggy put a huge grin on my face.
Hitchcock may not be the pure biopic that Hitchcock purists might be looking for, but either way it’s a fun/campy little nod to an era of the director’s life, filled with great performances and plenty of tongue-in-cheek references to the director’s classic works. After two solid films from Sacha Gervasi, I can’t wait to see where the director takes us next.
I give Hitchcock a 4 out of 5.
By Richard Pepper