Anthony Hopkins as the cutting, caustic, corpulent creative director “Alfred Hitchcock” (1899-1980) is magnificent. He captures the man with his foibles, charms, inimitable genius, as no other actor could. For those who remember Mr. Hitchcock, Hopkins reincarnates the “Master of Suspense”.
“Hitchcock” concentrates on the vicissitudes tackled in the making of “Psycho”( based on the novel by Joseph Stefano) and the hurdles of overcoming 1959 seals of approval; millenials are in for a fascinating education. Also focusing on Hitchcock’s relationship with his brilliant wife and collaborator, “Alma Reville”; born a day apart in 1899 (d. 1982), they moved in tandem up the scale of success and notoriety . Helen Mirrin gifts Alma with the intellectual dignity, steely resolve, needed to partner with a man imbued with an ego the size of Alaska. She suffered and shunned his ubiquitous flirtations with illusive blond leading ladies, aware that he needed her acute, incisive insights, recognizing the tools and surgery required to accomplish one box-office triumph after another. Mirrin, once again champions her role.
Scarlett Johansson plays Janet Leigh/Marian Crane, a blond who was left unscathed by the lecherous Hitchcock; a flimsy, half-backed characterization. Jessica Beil as Vera Miles/Lila Crane, brings a modicum of hubris and wisdom to another skinny role.
James D’Arcy (“Cloud Atlas”) exponentially provocative as Anthony Perkins/Norman Bates. In archaic times untoward sexuality had to be hidden, causing untold trauma to the individual living a life anathema to his constitution. “Norman’s” unhealthy obsession with his mother is reminiscent of Perkin’s own neuroses regarding his parents; praying for the death of his father, eliminating the competitive formula in his home life; with the fulfillment of his wish comes lifelong guilt. D’Arcy in minimal screen time gives a fragile, haunting, incredulous depiction of a soul and psyche in flux.
“Psycho” released in 1960, was a stunning, colossal success; stampedes of movie -goers, assaulted theatres, lusting for a taste of the “kill”, an injection of “fright”; legitimatizing Hitchcock’s prescience. Fifty-two years later its luster has yet to wane.