Making the Grades
The camera turns from the action in front of it to the man behind it in the movie Hitchcock. Anthony Hopkins, wearing a fat suit, portrays the legendary, corpulent director Alfred Hitchcock who made movie history with his production of Psycho. (Among other things it was the first American movie to show a flushing toilet.) But while the making of that movie’s famous shower scene is depicted along with some other brief scenes from the film, Hitchcock focuses more on the filmmaker’s marriage and obsession with his work.
Unable to secure funding for his new project based on the life of Wisconsin killer Ed Gein, Alfred mortgages the home where he and his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) live. Alma then imposes some household austerity measures (like a gardener only once a week) to make ends meet. Yet despite Alma’s support of the decision, the couple’s marriage is strained at times. Alfred experiences his regular “fantasy romance with his leading lady” as Alma refers to it. And Alma, in an effort to not lose herself in her husband’s overwhelming fixation on his new production, begins writing on the side with a friend Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston). It is soon evident Whit is looking for more than a scriptwriting colleague.
Dealing with unspoken jealousies, a formidable filming schedule and demands from Paramount officials who are under contract to distribute the controversial film, Alfred and Alma sense a fracture in their relationship at a time when he needs the support of his spouse more than ever. But his wife isn’t the only one to feel pressure from the controlling director.
While making Psycho, the director also demands an oath of silence from his stars Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy), Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) and Vera Miles (Jessica Biel), along with the production staff. He insists his assistant Peggy Robertson (Toni Collette) buy every copy of the book Psycho she can find in order to keep the movie’s ending a surprise. And when the studio makes little effort to promote his film, Hitchcock, as much a master of marketing as of movie making, devises an intriguing release strategy to compensate for the studio’s failures.
Adapting Hitchcock, Director Sacha Gervasi and screenwriter John McLaughlin bring other intimate details of the British filmmaker’s life to the screen, including his love of drink and blondes. More than once, Alfred turns to the bottle to calm his nerves, as well as flirts ostentatiously with his leading ladies in front of his wife.
Though Hitchcock will likely have little appeal for children or even most teens, audiences should note the film includes some graphic, albeit brief, shots of decapitated corpses, a brutal family killing and some gruesome verbal descriptions of cut up murder victims. However for fans of the director and his movies, this intimate focus on the personal life of the famous filmmaker and his wife portrays the power of this collaborative team.
Release Date: 23 November 2012 (Limited)
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Hitchcock.
After reading Alfred Hitchcock’s bio, what similarities do you see between his life and many of his characters? Why does Alfred seem to fear that all women will betray him? Who does he think betrays him in the film?
How does Alma show her support to her husband? What sacrifices is she willing to make for him?
How does Alfred become haunted by his current project? Is obsession or consuming passion a necessary trait for success as an artist?