Sunday, 30 December 2012

Hitchcock (2012)

Boyfriend and I went to see Hitchcock (Sacha Gervasi, 2012) last night. It was only playing at one cinema, and at that one cinema, it only had one showing on one screen. We were still the only people in the theatre (which has never happened to us before, and prompted Boyfriend to dash up and down the aisles tossing popcorn in the air). Now, I'm not usually one to buy into conventional claptrap about this generation being the worst one there ever was or anything, but when I saw live bodies that could have been watching Hitchcock filing out of the theatre for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 instead, it sort of gave me a sinking feeling. Like maybe the Mayans were right about the end of the world, and it's just that nobody noticed.

Just as Scarlett Johansson planned.
Hitchcock is a biopic focused on the making of Uncle Alfred's Psycho (1960). It follows the production from pitch to premiere, as Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) strives to prove that he is still a relevant director and his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) patiently (and then less so) attempts to communicate that his real shortcomings are as a husband. Eventually Hitchcock realizes he's been a twat, he and Alma kiss and make up, she helps him re-cut Psycho and it goes down in cinematic history. That's the entirety of the plot, making it the only movie of a reasonable length in theatres this Christmas, as far as I know.

Hitchcock is watchable and enjoyable. I want to say that straight up front, before I start criticizing it. I urge those of you with film-going parents and grandparents to consider taking them to Hitchcock, a movie under two hours long with no dwarves, no syphilis and no dynamite massacres. Newcomer Gervasi's direction is surehanded and charming, and the actors appear to be having great fun (although the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh could only have been made by drawing her name out of a hat while blindfolded: she acts like Faye Dunaway and looks like Grease's Rizzo). Finally, if you're an early 60s freak (which I am), the costumes are to die for.

It is, however, bizarre to me that someone out there decided that the best way to spin a biopic about Alfred Hitchcock was as an autumn-years romance. Every character in this movie is nice, well-intentioned, and considerate (even Ed Gein [Michael Wincott], who appears as a sort of fairy godfather figure to Hitchcock). Our heroes may fall prey to momentary lapses of judgement, but there are no genuine betrayals: and since no one makes any real mistakes, the audience doesn't have to worry, and therefore doesn't have to care.

I want that dress.
The script is also clunkily insistent on reminding filmgoers that This Is The Past: characters are prone to saying things like "Hitchcock, aren't you worried that Psycho will threaten your reputation as a master of suspense, which you made by directing your previous films North by Northwest and Vertigo?" (not an exact quote, obviously, but closer than I would have liked). Similarly, when Hitchcock and Alma mortgage their house to fund Psycho, Hitchcock attempts to spin genuine suspense around whether or not the project will succeed. Personally, I assume that anyone going to see a film called Hitchcock knows the answer to that question.

All in all, Hitchcock is sweet, reverent, and extremely polite: exactly the kind of film that the real Hitch would have hated. Still, if the film can spur even a few holiday moviegoers to pick up Psycho or The Birds and ignore Breaking Dawn - Part 2, I'll endorse it as a Christmas miracle.

Hitchcock's infamous casting couch.
SCENE STEALER: James D'Arcy is almost unbelievable good as Anthony Perkins -- he's got the boy scout smile, the slight stammer, and the eager, hungry gaze down to a T. How did a film that went so wrong with Vera Miles (Jessica Biel?) and Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson???) go so right with Anthony Perkins? And, having done so, why didn't they give him more screen time? He's only got a few scenes, and it's a real drag (ah ha ha ha HA HA HA ha ha ha HA... ha ha).

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