Sunday, November 25, 2012
Reel Thoughts: Without a Hitch
The battle of the Hitchcock biographies has played out with The Girl on HBO and Hitchcock on the big screen, and the winner is no contest. Hitchcock murders The Girl like Norman Bates slaughtered poor Marion Crane The dull, one-note The Girl never stood a chance against Anthony Hopkins as Hitch, Helen Mirren as Mrs. Hitch, Alma Reville, and Scarlett Johansson in a spot-on performance as Janet Leigh. Hitchcock delights in showing all the dishy behind-the-scenes dramas that went into the making of Psycho.
The Girl, on the other hand, fails miserably to capture the complex and allegedly abusive relationship between Hitchcock and his “exciting new discovery,” Tippi Hedren. Toby Jones does well, but seems small in stature and presence as Hitchcock, while Sienna Miller never even captures Tippi’s signature sexy monotone, much less her odd charisma. The film misses many opportunities to celebrate the films Hitch and Hedren made together, especially The Birds, never even showing Hedren with a single co-star. Was the budget that low? All we see is unpleasant to watch sexual harassment from Hitch toward Hedren, his obsession.
On the other hand, Hitchcock pumps up the suspense, naturally, considering that it is a film about making one of the scariest movies of all time. Director Sasha Gervasi and Black Swan screenwriter John J. McLaughlin introduce infamous serial killer Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the inspiration for Norman Bates, as a devil on Hitchcock’s shoulder as he films Psycho. With Gein's unexpected appearances, you are never sure if he will start some bloodletting of his own via Hitch, although he's essentially a red herring.
Hopkins disappears into his role as Hitchcock, capturing the brilliant director’s ego and vulnerability, while Mirren also gives a moving performance as a woman used to being invisible beside her famous husband. Toni Collette is wonderful as Hitch’s faithful secretary, and Jessica Biel is fun as the unfortunate Vera Miles, who suffered Hitch’s wrath on Psycho for having previously dared to get pregnant when he wanted to make her a star. Johansson is the real stand-out, managing to capture Janet Leigh down to the most subtle detail. Likewise, James D’Arcy makes the most of closeted star Anthony Perkins, who found parallels between his struggles and his twisted character.
Hitchcock is a fun behind-the-scenes look at 1960’s Hollywood that is one of the best movies of the year
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.