In modern times, the backdrop of classic Hollywood is often used to convey a sense of glamor, chicness, and style. Made-for-television movies about classic Hollywood stars have abounded in recent years, and filmmakers often place accuracy and respect for their subjects on the back burner, preferring to focus on opulent aesthetics to catch the viewer’s eye. The quality of these films generally ranges from barely adequate to completely disastrous, and Lifetime’s recent release of the train wreck Liz & Dick has magnified the issue and made many classic film fans extremely upset.
Though theatrical releases historically have not been much better, the past few years have seen an upswing in the frequency and quality of classic Hollywood’s representation on film. Beginning with The Aviator in 2004 and reaching an absolute creative apex with The Artist last year, there has been a steady increase of films created as odes to classic Hollywood in and of themselves, with details carefully adhered to and history accurately portrayed.
I went to see Hitchcock with an open mind. I have high standards for films dealing with classic Hollywood, and I was equally prepared for a Liz & Dick situation as I was for a triumph like The Artist. What I got was neither extreme, but rather an overall well-made, well-acted film with a great sense of fun and creativity, focusing on the filming of Psycho based on Stephen Rebello’s non-fiction book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho. Hitchcock plays much like an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, with the character of Alfred providing a clever intro and outro to the movie.
The filming of Psycho was a difficult one. Hitchcock was plagued by problems with the studio and with the censor board, and seemingly all odds were stacked the film, his pet project. Anthony Hopkins plays a very convincing Hitchcock, pursuing the realization of the film with all the calm determination that characterized his personality. His talented wife Alma, who all too often gets pushed aside in discussions of Hitchcock’s life and work, is played aptly by Helen Mirren. Though the character of Alma is rather more sexualized than her real life counterpart, Mirren’s take on Alma is that of a caring but rather dominating wife, concerned about getting older and seeking an outlet for her considerable talent as a writer and director. Outside influences on their marriage add another layer to the story, and the end result is a tight, thoughtful plot that interweaves the personal and professional life of Alfred Hitchcock.
I would not be surprised if this movie were to be a contender at the Oscars this coming year. Hopkins deserves a nomination as Hitchcock, and I would also venture to say that Mirren’s depiction of Alma will get some attention. I recommend this movie to anyone interested in the life of Alfred Hitchcock or his movies. Though it is not as groundbreaking or noteworthy as The Artist, it gives the viewer a good piece of entertainment and some informational value to boot.
See you next time!