This is a big year for one of our finest directors. He is known to many as "The Master of Suspense". But two new films find that Alfred Hitchcock wasn't just a director, but also loved a certain type of woman despite the fact that he's married to someone very faithful to him.
Currently in theaters is the story of how Hitchcock made one of his all time famous films. In "Hitchcock" (PG-13) we have Anthony Hopkins playing the title role. He does have the looks and mannerisms to a tea. We find he's hitched to Alma (Helen Mirren), who tells her husband he should watch what he eats and drinks while assisting on his films.
Coming off the smash hit "North By Northwest", Hitchcock looks for his next project and finds it in a novel based on a real life incident involving a man named Ed Gein. The project is "Psycho", written by Robert Bloch and Hitchcock desires it as the next film of his glorious career. But there are plenty of risks involved which include possible nudity and a very violent death, which the ratings board finds very leery.
Fighting over his plans with his current employer, Paramount Studios, Hitchcock takes a risk by financing the movie himself, sacrificing his house in the process. The film looks at a project's planning stages; from the hiring of actors to putting the elements of the film together. For the pivotal role of the movie's victim, Hitchcock finds a budding leading lady in Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) who seems smitten by the charms of the director.
Meanwhile, Alma is in a friendship with writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston). This has Hitchcock in a little tizzy as he observes the two in a conversation which ensues in having Alma and Whitfield traveling to Whitfield's beach hideaway. Now the relationship is just one of friendship, but Hitchcock doesn't see it that way while perfecting scenes with his leading lady and locking horns with the ratings board. as well as the studio head.
Based on a book about the making of "Psycho", screenwriter John J. McGlaughlin captures how a film develops scene by scene, as well as diving into the mind of a perfectionist director. Director Sasha Gervasi does create some tension between the relationship of Hitchcock and Alma, turning itself into a little suspense movie. We get a bit of Hitch's womanizing, but not too much and I wished the script would have delved into it a bit more.
Nonetheless the acting is grand to watch. Hopkins has a ball immersing into being Alfred Hitchcock while Helen Mirren holds her own quite well. The two play off each other in a winning fashion, making the film fun to watch. But the movie also has winning performances from Johansson as the attractive Janet Leigh, Huston as a wily writer, Jessica Biel in a small but potent role as co-star Vera Miles, James D'Arcy being a dead ringer for Anthony Perkins, and Toni Collete as Hitch's secretary, Peggy.
Also having fun is Danny Elfman's score which incorporate's Hitch's theme perfectly. The camerawork and editing are also very good as this film flows on an even keel.
My friends thought it should have been more going on than concentrating of "Psycho", with one of them wanting to expand Hitch's other films. But what I got from "Hitchcock" was what I expected, but I wish there were a little more. In fact, the other film about Hitchcock does give us more of an insight showing how he's infatuated with blondes.
"The Girl" (TV-14), a HBO film released about a month and a half before "Hitchcock" came out tells the tale of Hitchcock (Played here by Toby Jones) becoming very passionate with a Swedish model turned actress name Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller). In fact, he became so interested in her that she became the leading lady for Hitch's' next movie, "The Birds".
The film dives into the making of not just "The Birds", but Tippi's other film she made with Hitchcock, "Marnie". Yet, this movie is more of a horror story in itself as Hitchcock becomes too close to Tippi, he thinks she the next big star. Despite being groomed by Hitch's wife Alma (played here by Imelda Staunton), and his secretary Peggy (Here played by Penelope Wilton), Tippi becomes afraid of her director, even more so when he uses real birds for a scene in the attic. It's then Tippi questions her wish for acting, as well as even finishing the film.
Written by Gwyneth Hughes, based on a book by Donald Spato, and directed by Julian Jarrold the film does have some pleasures. I thought Toby Jones, while not quite capturing the physical aspects of the director, managed to get the voice infliction correct. It is a joy to listen to. As for Ms. Miller, she's not too bad here, but it seems the script makes her look like a victim in a horror movie more than the actress she's essaying.
Staunton does fine work as Alma who seems to truly question more about Hitch's motives with Tippi, yet her role is more in the background here than in 'Hitchcock". Wilton also does a yeoman's job as Peggy.
Lensing is terrific as is the editing and music. Yet, I wanted more again as this film is a little too short for its own good.
Perhaps it's best you view both "Psycho" and "The Birds" to see why Hitchcock is a great master of his genre, but both "Hitchcock" and "The Girl" do deliver some insights into the noted director even though I wanted a bit more into the man.
Final Grades: "Hitchcock" gets a B Plus
"The Girl" gets a B