Friday, December 14, 2012

Movie with Abe: Hitchcock

Directed by Sacha Gervasi
Released November 23, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock is well-known as the Master of Suspense. For decades, Hitchcock directed mysteries and thrillers and kept movie-going audiences on the edge of their seats. His trademark was a momentary cameo in each of his films, a shot of him walking or asking a question that would have gone unnoticed if not for his distinctive physical form. In Sacha Gervasi’s film, Hitchcock steps out from behind the camera to star in his own story, an examination on a man living through his imagination that is initially intriguing but ultimately leaves much to be desired.

Like another notable biopic released this year, “Lincoln,” this story chooses a figure known for an illustrious career with many accomplishments and zeroes in on one particularly memorable and uncertain time. The production of “Psycho,” a film about which none besides Hitchcock himself were optimistic, has the makings of a great movie subject. The entire story is told tongue-in-cheek, since everyone repeatedly emphasizes the failure potential of “Psycho” and that people would be simply revolted by seeing a woman stabbed to death in a shower. Only Hitchcock is the wiser, believing emphatically in his vision.

The costumes and backgrounds in “Hitchcock” help to establish its 1960 setting and to make its events feel real and relevant. The way the story is told and acted, however, lacks the same energy and draw of Hitchcock’s films, presenting blunt characterizations of its principal players and unveiling its conclusive feelings about them all too early. Hitchcock in particular is portrayed very negatively, magnificently stubborn and prone to letting himself get wrapped up in his work, unable to give the rest of the world any consideration. Rather than investigative who Hitchcock was by spotlighting him at different times throughout his career, the narrow focus prevents him from displaying any sort of redeeming behavior.

Getting Anthony Hopkins, so terrifically chilling as serial killer Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs,” to play Hitchcock seems like dream casting. Yet Hopkins is covered completely in makeup to ensure that his face resembles the director’s, and from behind that mask, his performance lacks mystery, presenting a cut-and-dry impression of the director, who speaks loudly and demands to be heard. Helen Mirren, who has been earning accolades for her portrayal of the strong-willed Mrs. Lecter, delivers a decent performance that’s hardly worthy of comparison to some of her past roles. The trip into Hitchcock’s psyche is guided by imagined conversations with Ed Gein, the serial killer who inspired both Norman Bates and Lecter, allowing Hitchcock to dream up new villains and understand their motivations. “Hitchcock” the film just can’t decide what it wants to be, alternately shaping itself as a thriller and other times having Hitchcock directly address the camera. In other words, it’s an interesting peek behind the curtain, but far from a satisfying one.


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