Experimenting with anything Alfred Hitchock-related can be a tricky task. Consider, for example, Gus Van Sant’s curious (and that’s being kind) decision to remake, shot-by-shot, the flawless Psycho. But the challenge clearly didn’t deter director Sacha Gervasi, who is hitherto best known for his quirky documentary, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, which many thought was a spoof. But now as with back then, Gervasi isn’t fooling around.
Based on Stephen Rebello’s book Alfred Hitchcock And The Making Of ‘Psycho,‘ Gervasi’s movie is about how Hitch (Anthony Hopkins) took a personal risk by funding the classic 1960 horror film, mortgaging the home he shares with his wife Alma (Helen Mirren) to raise the funds. Scarlett Johansson and James D’Arcy play the roles originally portrayed by Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. But Gervasi can’t resist the sub-plot of having the legendary director worried about his wife falling for the flirtatious writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), who wants her to collaborate in some less appropriate ways.
The standout reasons to see Hitchcock seem to be the performances of Hopkins and Mirren, although the movie itself gets a more lukewarm welcome. The Hollywood Reporter is happy enough, noting that “Hitchcock might be a work of fantasy and speculation as much as it is history and biography, but as an interpretation of a major talent’s inner life and imagination, it’s undeniably lively and provocative.” But Variety (“Hitchcock offers almost zero insight into the peculiar workings of creative genius, or into the rich, taboo-shattering legacy of the film whose making it documents”) and Screen International (“Director Sacha Gervasi’s feature debut wobbles badly when it tries to investigate Hitchcock’s psyche, coming up with only simplistic explanations for his creative drive and darker impulses”) are less impressed, presumably preferring it if we sought out the original instead.
NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: Plenty of promising post-Thanksgiving offerings and each have their merits, though Silver Linings Playbook just about gets the nod over Life of Pi, which also seems to be worth a watch.