After all, it's just a ride….

Hitchcock (2013) Capsule Review

Hitchcock-2012-Movie-PosterI’ve finally found the time to see Hitchcock, the recent biographical stab at the Master of Suspense© sharpest of celluloid creations. Starring Anthony Hopkins as the titular terrorist and Helen Mirren as his long-suffering wife and constant creative partner Alma Reville the film has naturally been on my radar since it was announced back in 2010, and although I didn’t find the time to see it at the flicks I have sourced the film through alternate means, as I really do have to keep the credentials going after last years exhausting film season now don’t I? Given that the reviews have been lukewarm at best from last year’s festival cameos and Sight & Sound  didn’t even bother to commission any accompanying articles or coverage other than a standard review I suspected this was going to be a limp corpse, and my suspicions were proved accurate which justified my evasion of a cinema visit. As you probably know the film focus on the period immediately following the release of the breathless North By Northwest  in 1959 and the pre-production, shoot and final difficult release of 1960’s Psycho, a major risk for Hitch and Alma as no studio would finance the film up-front due to its grisly subject matter culled from the notorious antics of serial killer Ed Gein, and even Paramount who agreed to distribute the film had severe reservations of the marketability of the material after the gruesome twosome mortgaged their Bel Air mansion as collateral for the production budget;

What a ‘bloody’ fiasco. I was somewhat tepid to the recent Hitchcock HBO drama The Girl  but that’s a masterpiece compared to this dramatically impotent, clumsily written and badly arranged picture. Like many of Meryl Streep’s recent acting excursions for me there is a crucial difference between inhabitation and impersonation, and Hopkins follows this route by giving us no sense of depth to the man as he almost sleepwalks through the movie, rarely giving any sense of the man’s artistic drive, mental make-up or twisted ambitions – he doesn;t even get the voice remotely right. Crucially the entire film pivots on two dramatic conceits, the first that Ed Gein is visiting Hitch as some sort of guiding, hallucinatory apparition during the difficult genesis of this controversial picture, and in their wisdom screenwriter John J. McLaughlin  has invented a potential affair between Alma and a Lothario screenwriter played by Danny Huston which serves no purpose whatsoever, other than to distract attention from making of the movie toward an emotionally void snapshot of a marriage in crisis. Worst of all is the extinct exposition, horrifically delivered through some terrible dialogue forced into the mouths of supporting executives, members of the press and the production crew with lines like ‘Gosh Mr. Hitchcock, don’t you think you’re a little too old to make any new film which could shock an audience?’ climaxing on a penultimate scene, facepalm inducing line of dialogue which made me want to stab myself – if you’re seen the movie you know exactly what I’m talking about. Then again like any red bloodied male I have a bit of a thing for Scarlett Johansson and she is perhaps the only pearl amongst the swine, in a mannered and convincing portrayal of Psycho’s prematurely doomed starlet Janet Leigh;

Delving into the psychological depths of such a landmark cinematic figure whose career essentially spawned its own cottage academic industry of psychologically attuned cultural critical theory should be a potent area of nervous exploration, but frankly documentarian turned feature maker Sacha Gervais is simply out of his depth, stringing cold and frigid scenes together with all the dexterity of a mummified mannequin. There’s been enough analysis of Hitch’s personal life with his adoration for his mother and antipathy to his father (whom died when he was young) aligned with his subsequent placing of women on a deistic pedestal or ridiculing older females as harpyish shrews throughout his films, quite why McLaughlin invented this Ed Gein persona or invented this possible cuckold romance seems like a fatal error. Finally, whilst I appreciate that the details of the making of the film are well versed to aficionados like yours truly they never really broach any of the semi-famous production tales including a complete disregard for the ongoing Saul Bass shower sequence authorship debate, preferring to opt for presenting Hitch as some out of control tyrant, personally wielding the blade against Janet Leigh during a hysterically overweight sequence which massacres any dramatic licence it may have embezzled, it’s the coup de grace of a film which offers no insight, no drama and no illumination into either the filmmaker, his coterie of collaborators or the making of this deranged masterpiece. Rather than waste your time with the fictional failure may I humbly suggest you follow this non-fictional route which provides much more light than heat, and here’s the background to that aquatic abattoir; 

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