Director: Sacha Gervasi
Given that he spent his entire career scaring audiences across the world, you’d expect that Alfred Hitchcock would have one or two skeletons in his closet. And, indeed, there were indeed a few bones that rattled at the back of his psyche: a distrust of authority and an unhealthy obsession with his blonde leading ladies chief amongst them. This new biopic of the legendary British director tries to show that the true terror in “Psycho” was trying to get the film made.
After the success of “North by Northwest,” Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins, who manages to turn a performance that doesn’t turn into parody) turns his attention to adapting a pulp novel called Psycho. The studio objects, but – with the help of tough wife Alma (Helen Mirren, who turns in a superbly feisty performance) – Hitchcock manages to find the finance for the film himself. But as the studio breathes down their neck and Hitchcock becomes obsessed by his stars once again, will Alma be able to stay the course or shall she break free once and for all?
Given that this is a film about the Master of Suspense, it’s unsurprising that Hitchcock tries its best to rack up the tension. Devices such as Hitchcock talking to the spirit of Ed Gein (the real-life serial killer on whom the events if “Psycho” are based) and the sub-plot about the possibility of Alma having an affair are meant to add some real meat to the film. But ultimately they’re rather unfulfilling as you feel that the film is trying too hard to create conflicts where none existed. The film exists on the premise that tries to make you wonder whether Psycho will be a success – and unless you know nothing about the cinema (and therefore probably wouldn’t see the film anyway) you already know the answer.
Still, the film has entertaining moments with some strong performances (aside from Hopkins and Mirren, Scarlett Johansson gives an uncanny performance as Janet Leigh) and those with an interest in cinema history should find some enjoyment.