I have seen almost all the Alfred Hitchcock films. I enjoyed most of them because he showed how you could build up suspense without gratuitous violence and gore, and he avoided horror merely for the sake of it. In particular, I liked the fact that he never resorted to the supernatural. All the weird things in his films always turned out to have rational explanations at the end.
So I looked forward to seeing the film Hitchcock (2012). It is not a biography of the film maker but instead deals almost entirely with the making of the film for which he is best known, and that is Psycho in 1960.
The film deals with how Hitchcock (played by Anthony Hopkins) made the film despite the lack of enthusiasm and support of the studios for this project, and of his relationship with his wife Alma (played by Helen Mirren). Hopkins and Mirren are excellent, as usual, with Hopkins in heavy makeup to look like the portly Hitchcock, but the best thing about his performance is that he gets the distinctive voice and cadence just right.
But while the film is enjoyable, it is not a great one. There are many factual inaccuracies and perhaps in a misguided attempt to create tension, they created a side story between Mirren and another screenwriter that seems like a distraction it could have done without. I frankly would have liked to see more time devoted directly to the making of Psycho.
If the filmmakers wanted a side story, they could have focused on the fact that while Hitchcock was apparently a very funny man, he also had fixations on some of his female leading leads and could be obsessive and cruel to them, which was the basis for a different, and darker, film about him called The Girl (2012).
Incidentally Scarlett Johannson acts as Janet Leigh. I have been baffled by the acclaim that Johansson has had as an actress. I have seen quite a few films on which she has appeared and she seems to always play the same role: Woman with a Pretty Face and Few Emotions. Like Audrey Hepburn but with an even more limited range. (I say this even though I had a major crush on Audrey Hepburn from my boyhood.) At least in this film she gets the chance to show terror in the famous shower scene, which is a step forward. Johansson should really seek out scripts that require her to stretch herself so that she can develop and reveal her acting chops.
Here’s the trailer.