|Starring||Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette|
|Release||8 FEB (UK) Certificate 12A|
Now, I'm no Hitchcockian expert. I don’t even know if 'Hitchcockian' is a recognised term. It probably is. But, anyway, Hopkins' portrayal of the director is frustratingly one note. Every syllable of dialogue drools out in a monotone over his rubber chin, no matter how angry, hurt or quick-witted he is being. I have no doubt that Hopkins went to great pains to make sure that his performance was accurate and what we are seeing is extremely close to how Hitchcock spoke and behaved in real-life. But it is a tedious performance to watch all the same.
Even more exasperating is the fact that Hitchcock is well-known to have a shrewd sense of humour, but despite some drawn-out barbed observations spoken in the same constant drone as everything else and one heartening prank played on Psycho star Janet Leigh, we don't ever get that impression. There's never a twinkle in his eye, or a cheeky smile. Just the same dead-faced look of a man that might as well be suffering from dementia.
Director Sacha Gervasi does at least inject some Hitchcockian (I'm sticking with it) flights of fancy to his film. A fourth-wall-breaking framing device neatly adds some much needed quirk, as does a couple of hallucinated conversations with Norman Bates inspiration Ed Gein. However, overall, these are all too few and infrequently placed in a film that is otherwise just a run-of-the-mill melodrama.
The film certainly hints at more interesting aspects of Hitchcock's character – his occasional misconduct as a peeping tom, his roving eye for his leading ladies at the neglect of his wife, his often childish tantrums, his cunning marketing for this 'unsellable' movie – but they are all made peripheral to the story of his marital issues and the making of a film that doesn't ever really seem in danger of not getting made.
A triumphant finale and an admittedly great last line leaves Hitchcock on an undeserved high, but ultimately this is a film that doesn't learn anything from the man's own work. The slow tension is certainly present, but even the great director himself knew you had to slip in the thrill of a shower scene or a jabbing knife every now and then to keep people interested.