A Little Bit of Impish Fun: A Review of “Hitchcock”


Hitchcock (Sacha Gervasi, 2012)

I had no idea who Sacha Gervasi was before watching this film the other night, but I had previously seen two movies on which he had collaborated as a writer: The Terminal and Henry’s Crime. Both were . . . OK. They entertained in vague sorts of ways, but were weak on plot structure.

Hitchcock, however, is more than OK. There have been some negative reviews, such as this one in the New York Times and this one in the Baltimore City Paper, but I think those reviewers are missing the point. I think the film is meant to be more about Hitchcock-the-fabulist than Hitchcock-the-man, and whatever vision of Hitchcock is presented is best interpreted as an extension of the persona he projected than the real person underneath. Given that this film starts right away on a note that combines the macabre with the impish, in a scene where Ed Gein – the inspiration for Norman Bates – kills his brother while Hitchcock (who was not present at the actual crime scene) looks on, it is clear that the filmmaker is out to give us a good ride rather than to actually probe the depths of the great director’s psyche. If we take the film on those terms, then it’s all great fun.

I laughed throughout, and thoroughly enjoyed all of the performances: Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock; Helen Mirren as his wife, Alma Reville; Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh; an unrecognizable Toni Collette as Hitchcock’s secretary, Peggy Robertson; James D’Arcy doing an uncanny imitation of Anthony Perkins; and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles. While the film is nominally about Hitchcock’s search for his next project after the enormously successful North by Northwest, it’s really about the mystique – and deconstruction of that mystique – of movie production at the tail end of the studio era.

So watch, enjoy, and don’t get caught up in whether or not this or that is strictly true. When Hitchcock-the-narrator shows up again at the conclusion, take that as a sign that you really have been just watching a movie, which is what the master would have wanted.

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