Romy Shiller


In Film, review on January 2, 2013 at 10:03 am


Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.

Alfred Hitchcock

Movie Synopsis: Touted as a biographical comedy-drama that presents a behind-the-scenes look at the film Psycho, which was marred with controversy due to complaints about violence, nudity and other sexual content and claims that a body double was used in Leigh’s place during the shower murder scene. It will also focus on Hitchcock’s relationship with his wife Alma Reville. The Hitchcock plot follows the troubled financing of Psycho, the directors battles with Hollywood censors and Hitchcock’s desire to prove to his doubters, his wife and himself that he still had an edge. []


 The film is based on a book by Stephen Rebello, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of PSYCHO (1990). Anthony Hopkins is Alfred Hitchcock, Helen Mirren is his wife Alma Reville, Scarlett Johansson is Janet Leigh, Jessica Biel is Vera Miles, Toni Collette is the assistant Peggy Robertson.


picture from Psycho (1960)

It’s always fun for me to see a film about the making of a film. In this case Hitchcock is a drama about the making of Psycho. Hitchcock was doing in film what was considered risky and new. He actually financed Psycho himself because big studios would not back him. He mortgaged his house. He had trouble with the censors. Showing a toilette on screen at the time was a huge no-no. The censors were concerned about the shower scene. That scene and the whole film in general are iconic; it is so hard to believe they were problematic.


Helen Mirren plays Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville. Helen Mirren is nominated at The Golden Globes for this role: BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA. She was outstanding here. “I really wanted to show that inner strength Alma had.” To see a very strong, creative and talented woman on screen is rare.


Unfortunately, the great Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock was miscast. I found his makeup distracting – not his fault, of course. I imagine though, that a fabulous performance might have lessened my distraction – who knows? Portraying a historical figure can be tricky. Successful examples are Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe and Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln.


Scarlett Johanson plays Janet Leigh. She played her as sweet and was straightforward in her portrayal  – there was no complexity or layers

Jessica Biel is underrated as an actress. Even though her character, Vera Miles, was minor she brought a memorable, challenging performance.

James D’Arcy played Anthony Perkins but was given very little to do. The little he did was very realistic.

Toni Collette is one of the best actresses out there. It is always a great pleasure for me to watch her and here she does not disappoint. She breathes life into her character who is pretty tough but never one-dimensional.

I kind of wish that the script by John J. McLaughlin, mirrored a Hitchcockian sensibility. It could have been edgier, taken risks. It felt safe, commercial – Hollywood.  Psycho, released 52 years ago, breaks with those conventions.

The direction by Sacha Gervasi is the same as my concern with the script – unimaginative and safe. It was capable but not original. He directed a documentary about a Canadian heavy-metal band called Anvil! The Story of Anvil and won an Emmy Award in 2010 in the category of Outstanding Arts and Cultural Programming. I hope he tries again.

The film does look at the relationship between Hitchcock and Alma amidst the making of Psycho. Mirren says, “Alma was incredibly creative and positive, and I think that they had a strong bond that was glued together by drinks and by laughs.” Indeed. His drinking was a contentious dynamic. There was a lot of jealousy and suspicion but their loyalty to each other in this film was undeniable. It is refreshing to see untainted love. Smarminess in Hollywood film seems to pervade but here amidst complications there is a positive feeling. Then again, by many accounts he was an Ass. A realistic portrayal of their relationship? Doubtful. My wishful thinking is probably just that – wishful.

A made-for-television film called The Girl suggests that Hitchcock would have left his wife for Tippi Hedren but feelings were unrequited on her part. Hopkins said, “Well [Hitchcock] had some problems… he was quite a difficult man. He had strange relationships with the actresses.”


It was interesting to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the making of Psycho fraught with so many problems and obstacles. There was such a determination to get the film done – it was like a combination of stubbornness and integrity. I am the kind of person who really respects an alternative, creative vision. Sticking to ones guns in the face of adversity is truly admirable.

A review that I read by Jerome Christensen said, Psycho glories in narrative fractures and perverse behavior; it subverts the expectations of an audience already habituated to Hitchcockian suspense by pushing even further, masterfully administering a dose of sheer shock. Hitchcock, on the other hand, struggles to arouse even suspense.

I agree. The film was interesting but bland. It was informative but careful.

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