Oh, what’s a dried-up genius facing the greatest block of his innate creativity and genius to do? Go straight for the jugular: literally.
This is the basic point of the charming yet somehow ineffectual new movie Hitchcock starring Anthony Hopkins as renowned Hollywood director and cinematic auteur Alfred Hitchcock. The movie begins with the man sitting despondently in the shadow of the success of his last picture, North by Northwest, which many a film student has had to watch, study, and decipher before they were ever allowed to shoot or write anything. Hitchcock is unnerved by what he should do next. Is such a success repeatable? Is it better to veer off in an entirely different direction? Or perhaps he should hang up his megaphone and be done with the silly business of show altogether?
No, he decides: there is more to be done. And what is to be made is the filmed version of his latest pet reading project, Psycho. Everyone knows what happens after this point, but the film centers itself not on the success of Psycho and how it redefined the horror genre, but on the making of the movie and how it was basically an exercise in doubt, self-flagellation, and the art of dousing all-consuming metaphorical fires. Film-making is an ugly, tedious, and unforgiving business; its only rewards are not to be found in receipts at the box office, but in the delusional minds of filmmakers who hate the craft but love the final product. Hitchcock was one such man.
As played by Anthony Hopkins, he is a giant marvel of a man, though oddly the story never really scrapes beneath the surface. Yes, he’s odd and witty and full of dark purpose (and he plays magnificently opposite co-star Helen Mirren who plays his wife and partner Alma Reville ), but we never get to really see why he’s so utterly dark on the inside for such a seemingly cheery and affable man. Scarlett Johansson plays Janet Leigh surprisingly well, but it’s Toni Colette who steals the show as Peggy (how could she not? She’s Toni Colette!) In the end, this is more fantasy than reality, and you wish it had been weightier instead of so fanciful. Still, it ‘s a movie that more than the average cinephile or Hitchcock enthusiast will enjoy.