A film with a behind the scenes element of the making of Psycho with the greatest director of that time at the helm, though this film falls to Helen Mirren who plays his wife to draw the interest. It’s a tense little number with a fun and interesting look at the work and progress that went into putting on a movie that the studio didn’t want to be made. Hitchcock was damn adamant, if this telling sticks to the truth at all that a horror picture based on a book of the same name should be made even if the execs said it wasn’t his thing and that’s precisely why he wanted to do it.
The cast are good and Scarlett Johansson looks the part with her voluptuous appearance. She comes across as a believable Janet Leigh. Anthony Hopkins loses himself and the audience under the make up and becomes the auteur with ease. You admire Hitch but at the same time he’s a sleazy horrible man with an eye for the perfect blonde being his goal. This is where the grounded and more sympathetic role of Alma that Mirren plays shows its hand. You can’t help but feel for her as her marriage becomes less of an interest to Hitchcock, she does all she can for him and helps him but she’s lost to the up and coming bright eyed sirens. The writer played by Danny Huston provides the get up and go boost in the relationship dynamic of will she-won’t she go with him or stay with Hitch. Though clearly we know what choice she’ll make and the whole cabin on the beach and the writer of romance thing is wishy washy and Alma walking in on Cook (Huston) with someone else makes for a soap opera vibe that didn’t need to happen.
It’s strengths lie in how the cast look and the nod for Makeup and Hairstyling at the Oscars is fair enough, as it’s effective skin for Hopkins to bury himself in and become the role. It’s a gritty and kind of sexy film with the appeal of Hollywood movies being a glamorous lifestyle and this film switches from this world to the more homely attitude of Alma and Alfred’s marriage now and then making it more of a relationship drama than a focus on the making of ‘Psycho’. I do like seeing the relationship under the microscope idea but it’s one of those films that you don’t know how much is heightened realism to make the film more dynamic and the entire film comes across as more of a TV movie. There’s nothing big in it to justify it’s cinema release, it would work just as well or better on a television screen as part of a Hitchcock night. In fact a show done by the BBC titled ‘The Girl’ was another biopic based on the making of a Hitchcock feature and worked brilliantly on television.
A good enough look through a magnifying glass at a small part of Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ with Mirren’s Alma playing a bigger role and bringing more of the relationship drama to the fore whether it’s wanted or not.