After HBO's The Girl showed us a corpulent Alfred Hitchcock sexually harassing Tippi Hedren on the set of The Birds, I worried that Hitchcock would be another dour study of a dirty old genius.
Nope. The master of suspense, played with incomparable style and mischievous wit by Anthony Hopkins in a fat suit, still fantasizes about his cool blondes in Sacha Gervasi's hugely entertaining Hitchcock. But he also manages to have lots of wicked fun directing 1960's Psycho (his biggest risk and biggest hit) and collaborating with Alma Reville, the woman he married in 1926. It's a kick that the radiant Helen Mirren plays mousy Alma with the banked fires of a woman who seldom received credit for her contributions on scripting, casting and editing. You want to cheer when she tells the old boy off for his neglect. Mirren deserves an Oscar nomination for that scene alone.
Loosely adapting Stephen Rebello's 1990 book, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of 'Psycho,' director Gervasi (Anvil! The Story of Anvil) and screenwriter John J. McLaughlin (Black Swan), take larkish liberties with what did or didn't go on with the Hitchcocks in their separate beds. From this film, you'd never know they had a daughter, Patricia. But it's no lie that Hitch and Alma mortgaged their home to shoot a script the studio considered claptrap, including the now famous shower scene with Janet Leigh, done to a turn by a perky Scarlett Johansson. Hitch's alleged jealousy over Alma and writer Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) is nowhere near as amusing as the hardsell he put on Psycho, warning patrons he wouldn't be responsible if they passed out from shock. Standing in the lobby at the Psycho premiere, Hitch conducts the shrieks he hears from the audience like a symphony of screams. It's a glory moment for Hopkins, who catches the essence of Hitchcock as artist and con man. Hopkins and Mirren are acting pros in stellar form. There's no way you want to miss the pleasure of their company in a movie that offers a sparkling and unexpectedly poignant look at how to sustain a career and a marriage.