Presenting Hitch; Not the Will Smith Film
Review written by Robert Patrick
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren
The bulbous frame and bulldog-jowls of the master of suspense are about as well-known as the Campbell’s soup can or Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. The director’s suit, an emulsion of black and white, was always there to greet the audience. Alfred Hitchcock was a brand. The portly silhouette and and lolling, droned delivery of his voice curated stories of fear and suspense for decade upon shriek inundated decade. In Hitchcock, director Sascha Gervasi plunges head first into the frayed – sometimes misunderstood – history of the late-auteur. Labeled as violently carnal and smarmy to manipulative and even kind, Hitchcock is a hub of interest for countless biographers and movie-goers.
Instead of painstakingly recreating the master’s life, Gervasi pulls his inspiration from the Stephen Rebello book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, to tell a succinct, though often times trying, story of the director in – and out – of his element. Anthony Hopkins plays Hitch as a playful, self-destructive and quixotic personality that assigned emotions to the people around him. Hopkins does a fantastic job recreating the subtle mannerisms and half-mast eyelids of the director, as he ambles around, capturing the topography of Hitchcock’s personality, in a way that surprises and energizes the film.
The screenplay focuses on Hitch’s tumultuous, barbed, and yet loving relationship with his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren). The couple’s relationship, spanning the director’s entire career, was a venerable partnership – more professionally than romantically, some would assert – that helped mold the master’s films. Mirren does an amiable job of portraying the bow of Hitchcock’s ship throughout the proceedings. The supporting cast is filled by Jessica Biel, Scarlett Johansson and James D’Arcy (the latter of which has an uncanny likeness to Anthony Perkins).
The direction of Hitchcock is blanched, for the most part, as Gervasi approaches his subject with whimsy, even in its most raucous, tense moments. The mood feels akin to My Week with Marilyn or Me and Orson Welles in its innocuous, paint-by-numbers approach. The screenplay, written by John J. McLaughlin, feels like the Spark Notes of Alfred’s callous-humor and indulgent persona. Despite lacking the fingerprints of a more capable director and writer, Hitchcock is an entertaining diversion – like a three-minute pop song or a box of Whoppers.