Movie review: Hitchcock

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From the December 6, 2012 edition

An Oscar-season movie about one of the greatest film directors ever starring two Oscar winners is probably going to come with certain expectations. Among them, Oscars.

What you might not be expecting is how fun this movie is. It’s not the dry biopic you might expect. It’s maybe not as “important” as its pedigree would indicate. But it is — to quote the film’s title character — “fiendishly entertaining.”

Anthony Hopkins plays the rotund master of suspense contemplating his next project late in his career. He settles on a macabre little novel by the name of “Psycho.”

The project is met with reluctance by his studio, but Hitch has the help of his greatest collaborator, his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren). At the same time, Alfred’s obsession with “Psycho” — and his eye for the classic and curvy “Hitchcock blondes” — magnifies the strains in a relationship taken for granted.

An Oscar-bait project of this caliber (with this cast) isn’t one you would expect from a director making his feature debut, but that’s exactly the great hand Sacha Gervasi drew. His last picture was the funny, moving and just plain delightful “Anvil: The Story of Anvil,” a tale of a heavy metal band that never quite made it.

“Hitchcock” may disappoint serious film purists hoping for a serious film, but what could be more Hitchcock than a playful, twisty crowd-pleaser? It’s briskly-paced at around 98 minutes and mixes plenty of humor with its more heartfelt moments.

Hopkins’ performance is a delight from the first time he rolls Alfred’s signature “Good evening.” His Hitch is simultaneously lovable and unlikable, and it’s worth the price of admission alone.

But I dare say Hopkins is trumped by the always delightful Mirren. She’s supportive and stern and, most importantly, her own woman. The actresses of “Psycho” — played by Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel — pale in comparison.

“Hitchcock” may not be high art — nor does it really strive to be — but it’s a rousing flick with some real heart. I’ll take it.