Good evening. Our story tonight is the Montecito Picture Company biopic Hitchcock, which opens with a series of sharp exchanges that lay the groundwork for the well-tended plot to come. We feel it’s safe to say, as young people sometimes do, that you will dig it immediately. And though it would be wrong to unearth spoilers, let’s just promise fun in spades and that the rather ungainly sight of Anthony Hopkins playing our titular character, the master of suspense, will seem only to the cruelest of critics oddly unlike the rotund auteur he plays.
Okay, enough. But it is that kind of movie: funny, weird, and full of Hitch. And though some critics are justly complaining that it’s not very true to Hitchcock the thinker, Sacha Gervasi’s film mainly works because it is — like the man himself — gloriously rounded and thoroughly devoted to entertaining us. This diversity applies to the performances, as well. Hopkins never resembles the man, but masterfully sounds like him, while James D’Arcy’s impersonation of Anthony Perkins is an uncanny Xerox. In between is Scarlett Johansson playing Janet Leigh, who sometimes looks like ScarJo, while other times is Leigh to a tee, particularly in the sympathetic scenes. Best of all, however, is Helen Mirren as Alma Reville, Hitch’s wife and the real star of the film. Since most of us have no idea what she looked like, Mirren was free to create her with vulnerability and might. And she did.
Secondarily, the film is about the making of Psycho, a movie that revolutionized film and film-going. In that sense, this is a movie-lover’s movie and a reminder that adventurous filmmaking has rarely been greeted in Hollywood, even though the unexpected is what we all love best. Hitchcock had many secrets, which the years have both kindly and cruelly dug up. It’s not dirt that this film reveals, though; it’s his too-long-secret muse.