Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ho-Hum Hitch

Hitchcock       Final Cut Score: 83%

While his ashes have long since dissolved into the Pacific, Alfred Hitchcock is having a moment. The Master of Suspense has not one, but two features in play: The Girl on HBO and Hitchcock at your nearest art house. The similarities between the two projects are striking; the former focuses on the filming of The Birds while the latter lays the foundation for the creation of Psycho.

The one thing that's clear from both  Alfred Hitchcock was one messed-up dude.

Donning Hitch's ubiquitous black suit and tie, sporting all manner of prosthetics (nose, neck, supersized belly), Anthony Hopkins stars in the big screen semi-biopic centered on the making of his signature, shower-slashing masterpiece. It's a role where tipping into caricature mode is a foregone conclusion, Hitchcock was essentially a parody of himself and director Sacha Gervasi has no problems piling on.

Opening with a breaking-the-fourth-wall wink and nod from Hitchcock himself, the film picks the real-life inspiration for Psycho, Ed Gein, as Hitchcock's voice of conscience. It's an odd choice that signals this is a left-of-center look at Hitch and what made the guy tick  a puddle-deep look.

Aside from Hitchcock's highly disturbing/lurid obsession with his femme fatales (in this case Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh), what do we truly learn? Not much more than a visit to his Wiki page reveals – I'd argue much less.

The film's biggest revelation has nothing to do with the man himself; truth is, it's not even a revelation – Helen Mirren is a master thespian. She steals the show as Hitch's living-in-his-shadow, swept-under-the-rug wife Alma Reville. Mirren's "I am woman, hear me roar" nuclear weapon-level unloading on her hubby is a contender for the strongest acting moment this year – time stops, jaws drop when she unleashes it.

Serving as an acceptable compendium of his life, Hitchcock largely satisfies even if its residue washes away seconds after the final frame. In stark contrast to the films Hitch orchestrated.