[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link]

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One of those movies where I could see the flaws, but managed to like it anyway.

It's about—guess who?—Alfred Hitchcock, spanning the time between July 1959 (the opening scene is the North by Northwest premiere) and June 1960 (things wind up with the premiere of Psycho). Although insanely popular with audiences worldwide, Hitch is somewhat concerned that he's reached the end of his (heh) Rope, creativity-wise. He wants to do something new and scary, and finds (to the skepticism of nearly everyone) the very thing in the book Psycho, by Robert Bloch, which in turn was inspired by the gory 1950s Wisconsin crimes of Ed Gein.

Hitch has problems, though: He thinks his wife, Alma Reville (played by Helen Mirren) is getting way too chummy with the dashing, womanizing screenwriter Whitfield Cook. (She, in turn, is getting a little put out with her husband's obvious infatuation with the aloof blonde starlets he keeps casting.) Their personal fortune is at risk on the success of Psycho, and the production is mired in problems. The censors are on his (ample) ass. So are the studio execs. Plus, he eats too much, drinks too much, and smokes burrito-sized cigars.

But it all works out.

Anthony Hopkins plays Hitch; they don't get the physical resemblance very close, but the voice and mannerisms are pretty good. And his macabre quips are nearly all funny. ("Oh by the way, try the finger sandwiches. They are real fingers.") Helen Mirren is wonderful as Alma, and Scarlett Johansson is decent as Janet Leigh, around whose performance the movie-within-the-movie depends. And gee that actress playing Vera Miles looks familiar! I had to wait for the credits to find out it was that nice Jessica Biel.

One problem is shared with most biopics: the script uses dialog for exposition. (Movies should should either bring in Basil Exposition for this, or find another way to do it.)

Last Modified 2024-01-28 12:59 AM EDT