‘Hitchcock’: A lightweight look at a prolific director

The man who made “Psycho” was no lightweight, though he kind of comes off that way in “Hitchcock.”

Starring Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as Alma, his wife and collaborator, “Hitchcock” puts a featherlight yet entertaining touch on the behind-the-scenes struggle to make the mother of all slasher films.

Hitchcock’s dark side gets superficial treatment as the film offers the cinematic equivalent of psychobabble to explore the director’s notorious gluttony, sexual repression and idolization of his leading ladies.

Though shallow, “Hitchcock” has a playful quality that often makes it good fun, its spirit of whimsy a wink that the filmmakers know they’re riffing on Hitchcock’s merrily macabre persona and not examining the man with any great depth or insight.

“Hitchcock” is a promising move into dramatic filmmaking for director Sacha Gervasi.

With screenwriter John J. McLaughlin adapting Stephen Rebello’s book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” Gervasi spins a nimble tale of a genteel yet volatile genius turning a tawdry story inspired by murderer Ed Gein into high art, and one of the scariest movies ever.

Fresh off a big success with 1959’s “North by Northwest,” Hopkins’ Hitchcock lapses into the sort of funk that repeated itself throughout his career as he floundered about in search of his next film.

He settles on Robert Bloch’s novel “Psycho,” the story of Norman Bates, a soft-spoken mama’s boy whose creepy double life leads to multiple murders.

“Hitchcock” strains to play up marital strife between the two as Alma feels tempted by a writing colleague (Danny Huston), while Alfred’s frustrated fancies continue over his long string of Hitchcock blondes — in this case, “Psycho” co-stars Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) and Vera Miles (Jessica Biel).

Hopkins is padded to match Hitchcock’s portly silhouette, yet the jowly prosthetics applied to his face are a bit distracting and unrealistic.

Still, the spirit of Hitchcock comes through in Hopkins’ sly performance, and he captures the measured cadence of the filmmaker’s speech even though he doesn’t sound much like Hitchcock, either.

Mirren has the easier task in inhabiting Alma, bringing fierce intelligence to Hitchcock’s wife without the handicap of playing someone whose image, voice and mannerisms the audience knows so well.

Johansson turns out to be surprisingly good casting as Leigh, physically resembling the actress whose “Psycho” character gets snuffed in the famous shower scene and also doing a nice impersonation of Leigh’s speaking style and demeanor.

Behind horn-rimmed glasses and a stiff hairdo, Toni Collette is a delight as Hitchcock’s assistant, putting great heart and humor into her handful of scenes.

If “Hitchcock” ultimately feels inconsequential, it aims to please, and for the most part, it does. As Alma says at one point, even “Psycho,” after all, was just a movie.

“Hitchcock”

2 and a half stars

A light-hearted, almost tongue-in-cheek look at the portly director during the filming of one of the scariest movies ever, “Psycho.” A padded Anthony Hopkins doesn’t look or sound like Hitchcock, but pulls off the portrayal in spirit. With Helen Mirren as his wife, Alma, and Scarlett Johanssen as Janet Leigh, star of the famous shower scene.

Rated: PG-13 for violence, sex and thematic materials.

Showing: Limited release nationwide; opens locally Nov. 30.

More in Life

Tiny book “Tonic” packed with with homeopathic remedies

Tanita de Ruijt’s recipes help support your body’s natural defences and heighten your state of mind.

Andrea Rosen, mother of two, quit eating sugar more than 1,000 days ago. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
How kicking her sugar habit changed a Mill Creek mom’s life

Andrea Rosen quit eating sweets 3 years ago, lost weight, felt better and her family also benefited.

Exceptional eggplant: 4 recipes with the funny-shaped veggie

By Daniel Neman / St. Louis Post-Dispatch Let’s face it, eggplant is… Continue reading

How to roast Brussels sprouts to crispy goodness

Toss these compact cabbages with toss with homemade sweet and sour vinaigrette.

Ambiguity of ‘The Invisibility Cloak’ by Ge Fei is tantalizing

The story of a man offered to build an incredible sound system delves into odd turns and noir.

These tasty enchiladas take only 5 minutes in the microwave

Serve this Mexican-inspired turkey and refried bean dish with fried corn on the side.

Peanut butter helps West African-style stew find the ‘sweet spot’

This recipe is a colorful medley of sweet potatoes, tomato, bell pepper and collard greens.

The “Hamilton” marquee at The Paramount in Seattle. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
Seattle’s ‘Hamilton’ is everything it’s hyped to be and more

The blockbuster musical at The Paramount in Seattle runs through March 18.

Most Read