In the opening scene where Alfred Hitchcock breaks the third wall and addresses the audience, Hitchcock sets up foundations to be something of contemporary interest, and an insight into the master of suspense. Unfortunately, these moments in the film are scattered within a completely different approach – a restrained and contrived story which spells out the relationships, characters and narratives with a light and feathery touch.
This style, relied on for the majority of Hitchcock, is made nonetheless engaging to an extent thanks to a rich set and costume design, great supporting performances and two fantastic core leads. Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins remind us why they are national treasures. Even under all the prosthetics and silicone suit accessories needed to capture Hitchcock’s physical bulk, Hopkins shines a light terrifically on the character’s multi-dimensions – a real achievement considering the on-the-button script. Mirren, as Alma, the important creative lynchpin in Hitchcock’s life, is never overshadowed and matches Hopkins’ performance toe-to-toe, suiting the characters’ relationship perfectly. The chemistry between Hitchcock and Alma is a dream to watch, but the inconsistent, insubstantial script is compounded by awkward, swinging direction which seems to work too hard to construct emotion, especially in the intimate interactions.
This is not to say that Sacha Gervasi has failed in his first attempt to direct a narrative feature, because when the film is at its creative and experimental best it is the direction that pumps the blood of the performers and audience. The climactic shower scene in this film is almost as deranged and terrifying as it is in Psycho, and the strange and haunting moments of Ed Gein in conversation with Hitchcock’s conscience are fascinating – these are truly suspenseful and well crafted elements. This is why it is such a shame that the film’s meat is stuck in a restrained and straightforward method. It not only works against the director’s style, but almost shackles the performances.
Perhaps the aim was to keep Hitchcock mainstream and audience friendly, but what we end up with is a slight and safe portrait of the man and his creativity, instead of a deeper and darker look at an artistic icon, which the film shows the potential to be.
Hitchcock is released nationwide on 8th February 2013.
Watch the trailer for Hitchcock here: