Director: Sacha Gervasi
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, James D’Arcy
Watch online: Amazon Prime Instant Video / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Alfred Hitchcock just might be the greatest director of all time. 2012 reminded us of that, with Vertigo ruling Sight & Sound’s Top 40 poll and the BFI holding a huge retrospective in his honour. Which is why HBO’s TV movie The Girl sparked a scandal when it suggested Hitch was actually a dark lech who sexually tormented Tippi Hedren on the set of The Birds.
Fans can relax, though. Sacha Gervasi’s biopic will cause no such outrage – because despite its title, Hitchcock is not a film about Hitchcock at all. It’s a film about Anthony Hopkins in a fat suit.
“Call me Hitch. Hold the cock,” Hopkins smirks from beneath several pounds of prosthesis. He’s more silly putty than man, and his on-off Cockney accent is never believable for a second. It’s a terrible impression; unfunny and awkward every time he’s on screen.
At least Gervasi has the smarts not to go for the director’s full life story, saving us extended time with Plasticine Man. Instead, Gervasi focuses on the making of Psycho, the horror flick based on Robert Bloch’s novel that essentially invented the slasher genre. Struggling to find funds from studios who only want another North by Northwest, he and his wife Alma (the ever-dependable Helen Mirren) put the money in themselves.
“We’ve mortgaged our house!” she cries as his puffed face looks on. No wonder she ends up flirting with Danny Huston’s smiley screenwriter Whitfield Cook (who helped adapt Strangers on a Train). But Gervasi’s attempt to portray the filmmaker’s oh-so-troubled personal life – complete with forced Peeping Tom scenes – drowns everything in soapy melodrama. Ironically, it feels more like a TV movie than that HBO production.
It’s only on the carefully recreated 1950s set where Mr. Play-Doh plies his trade that Hitchcock becomes remotely interesting. Why? Because we get to see some real acting. Surrounded by pastel-coloured period detail, Janet Leigh and Vera Miles are superb – there’s no hint of Scarlett Johansson or Jessica Biel anywhere – while James D’Arcy’s Anthony Perkins is spookily accurate. Together with Michael Stuhlbarg’s agent, the exceptional supporting cast and on-set tension almost distract you from the giant lump of dough squatting the middle. But still, he rises to the fore: a bloated heap that, in Hopkins’ hands, gets battered hideously out of shape.
If our award-nominated lead were any good, you could at least enjoy half of this middling drama. But as the dull script, desperate to have to something interesting to say, starts including hallucinations of Ed Gein (the inspiration for Bloch’s book), you end up wishing Hitchcock was relegated to a cameo halfway through.
The Girl was accused of being a hatchet job of a much-loved director. Hitchcock is just a hack job. Its most shocking revelation is one that remains unspoken throughout the whole movie: the director of Rear Window was actually the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Hitchcock is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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