Jun 10, 2013

[Movies] Hitchcock (2012)

For one reason or another, I have never seen an Alfred Hitchcock film completely from start to finish. I've seen a generous number of clips from his various movies and I've caught segments of it on TV but I just haven't actually sat down to really watch them. It's one of those weird truths about myself that leaves me feeling rather embarrassed as a movie enthusiast. Seriously, what's the deal with that?

And while I do promise that I'll get around to it one day, this movie came along as an alternate form of entertainment.

Prior to this, I had only heard about Hitchcock almost in passing given it had received a nomination at the Academy Awards. It was one of those movies that got tuned out as so much white noise since it was part of the host of films that I had not been able to see by the time the awards night rolled along.

I actually enjoyed this movie quite a bit. Quite frankly, it was very well done.

Synopsis: Hitchcock is the 2012 biographical drama (or black comedy?) movie based on the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello. The movie had been directed by Sacha Gervasi with a screenplay by John J. McLaughlin.

It is 1959 and Hitchcock's North by Northwest has just been released to the public to rave reviews. However one report suggests that perhaps it is time for Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) to retire while still at the top of his game. This notion affects him more than expected and he obsesses on searching for a truly daring movie to make to silence his critics. And his search eventually leads to the novel Psycho by Robert Bloch.

But it's not as simple as choosing a story to adapt in order to get the movie done. Hitchcock faces a variety of challenges such as the studio refusing to take on the movie due to the greater financial risks of such a story and his own wife, Alma (Helen Mirren) somewhat distracted by fellow screenwriter Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) given her feelings of frustration with Hitchcock's dalliances and eccentricities. But Hitchcock is determined to make this movie - and thus decides to finance it himself and making it using his television crew from Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

It takes you a moment to fully appreciate that the rather portly fellow in the opening scene truly is Anthony Hopkins. And while it's not a 100% accurate depiction of Alfred Hitchcock himself, it still represents an amazing transformation into a completely different individual. Thus I can appreciate why the movie had been nominated for its make-up work - the job was just stunning. And naturally Hopkins ran with it and made it all the more powerful as a narrative device.

The movie is centered around the relationship between and his wife, Alma. And that on-screen chemistry - whether friendly or adversarial in nature - would not have been possible without Dame Helen Mirren bringing the character to life. She's certainly a strong character to begin with - a woman who knows exactly what Hitchcock is up to at times and yet still humors him when it still suits her. The relationship between the two is certainly complex and that carries well through their performances.

There is the argument that the movie seems sanitized given some of the more extreme accounts of Hitchcock's unique way of handling a movie cast and crew. But at the same time this in itself is a movie - one that is not obligated to be 100% factually accurate but can instead focus on key aspects of the events in order to effectively tell a story. And thus I felt the movie still felt cohesive without overly indulging in that aspect of things - it did have a comedic slant that it wanted to pursue.

The whole story centers around the filming of Psycho, but naturally manages to do this without actually showing us aspects of the finished movie. In that regard it sort of reminded me of Ed Wood, although even then we still saw bits of the final movies that time around. My point is that it was certainly interesting to see how Hitchcock might have gone about the creation of his movies in terms of his attention to detail and his unique methods of eliciting the desired emotions from his actors.

Beyond the filming, the movie tries to address the probably mindset of Hitchcock at the time as we draw parallels with the the case of Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), said to have helped inspire the story of the original novel. Thus in Hitchcock's dreams, he seems to be exploring more and more the darker tendencies that might have been felt by Gein. It adds a bit of a shadow to Hitchcock's life and sort of implies darker tendencies and desires within him, but they never really make a definite statement about this by the end of the movie.

Hitchcock is an interesting exploration of the great director and his relationship with his wife. Given the excellent talent and a competent director, it is certainly an interesting movie indeed. Thus I happy rate it as 4.5 moments of our movie Hitchcock character breaking the fourth wall to address the audience out of 5.

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