A story of love and filmmaking in 'Hitchcock'

Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock (Handout)

Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock (Handout)

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:00 AM ET

The man who ruined the experience of a nice hot shower for an entire generation is the focus of Hitchcock, a film about the director, his personal life and a little movie called Psycho.

Built around the battle to get a picture as shocking as Psycho filmed and released, Hitchcock is a actually a love story about the director and his wife, Alma Reville; much has been written about Hitchcock's obsession with the patrician blondes who populate his films -- Grace Kelly, Tippi Hedren, Kim Novak -- but he was married for more than 50 years to a woman who was also his filmmaking partner.

Hitchcock is set in the late '50s. The director (Anthony Hopkins) is in the grip of some sort of age-related ennui. He feels old at 60, he can't find a project to film, he's fed up with the studio, he's impatient with Alma (Helen Mirren).

Then Hitchcock gets his hands on a book called Psycho and starts convincing those around him that it will be his next movie. Everyone is appalled, and the studio will not support the decision. The book is a novel that draws on the crimes of Ed Gein, an American killer who dug up bodies from the local cemetery and kept body parts and trophies around his farm house.

Gein becomes the model for Norman Bates in Hitchcock's famous film, but getting Psycho made is an uphill battle. The material is completely unsuitable for a film of the era. The main actress, Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) gets killed early on, a stunning narrative twist for the time.

The story of the complex relationship between Hitchcock and his wife plays out against this backdrop of filmmaking. Alma tolerates Hitchcock's obvious sexual attraction to his leading ladies and is herself drawn into a flirtation with the writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston). The emotional turmoil experienced by husband and wife matches the chaos of filming Psycho, but this film suggests that the success of everything -- from their marriage to their movies -- comes down to Alma's contribution and support.

Hitchcock may be taking liberties in its ideas about the director's psyche, but it's a genuinely entertaining movie. It's historically interesting, too, in an old Hollywood kind of way, and features Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, Toni Collette as Hitchcock's assistant Peggy Robertson and James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins. Above all, it's a chance to see Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins work together, and that alone is worth the price of admission.

This film is rated PG.


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