Hitchcock - Cinema Review

'the audience are gently encouraged to see Hitch - from his jealously, to his slight perversions, to his directing ticks - as a figure of fun, a rotund purveyor of one-liners and jolly japes'

Whilst The Girl, which aired on BBC2 over Christmas, encouraged you to be scared of Tony Jones' Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock encourages you to laugh at him. From the opening and closing monologues, where Anthony Hopkins' version of the great director speaks into the camera, audiences are gently encouraged to see Hitch - from his jealously, to his slight perversions, to his directing ticks - as a figure of fun, a rotund purveyor of one-liners and jolly japes.

This is, of course, no less a valid reading of the real life figure by Sacha Gervasi than Julian Jarrold's was in The Girl, although both leave you with the feeling that the truth may well be somewhere in the unexplored hinterland that divides the two portrayals. Certainly there are uncomfortable moments in Hitchcock, notably one involving a peep-hole into Vera Miles' (Jessica Biel) dressing room, where we are egged on by Danny Elfman's typically twinkly score to chuckle at what qualifies as sexual harassment. Some balance would have been nice.

That critique is even truer of substance given how oddly Hitchcock pitches itself elsewhere. Ostensibly a dramatised 'making of', it's not until later scenes that you get the impression Gervasi has actually been trying to make a domestic Drama, an exploration of the creative relationship between Hopkin's Hitch and Helen Mirren's Alma. But then, why should you have spotted this, where were the clues? Certainly not in the recurring motif of Hitchcock's imagined visions of mass murderer Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), who shows up lurking in the dark shadows whilst Hopkins carries on with his one-line witticisms.

That should all suggest something of a confused entity, which is exactly what Hitchcock feels like. Hopkins lead performance is not as convincing as Toby Jones' but it is at least interesting. Mirren on the other hand never seems to know where to pitch Alma; at one point she's a closed fuddy-duddy, at another she seems suited to the red swimsuit she winsomely purchases whilst dreaming of a life with smarmy Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston). The Awards Season cop-out would normally follow that this is worth watching for its performances, a la The Sessions - and in a way, it is - but it's more interesting to watch for its quite bizarre directing choices, and complete lack of settled tone and purpose.




Hitchcock is released in UK cinemas on Friday 8th February.

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