How is the Alfred Hitchcock biopic Hitchcock holding up with critics? Despite gold-plated star power, the film is actually polarizing critics, who are calling it everything from “fearlessly unsubtle,” to “heavily perfumed fertilizer.”
The film, directed by newcomer Sacha Gervasi, stars Sir Anthony Hopkins as the legendary and titular Hitchcock, with Helen Mirren playing his wife, Alma Reville. The film focuses on the making of Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller Psycho, though arguably pays more attention to the interplay between Hitch and his wife, and his own “obsession with death.”
Critics seem to prefer one over the other, or neither at all.
Kenneth Turan of the LA Times says that the problem with Hitchcock is that “it’s just not interesting.” He contends that Hopkins and Mirren “have their moments,” but that “this is one cinematic portrait of a marriage we could have lived without.” Further, “[The film's] protagonists turn out to be not especially interesting and the audience is not presented any convincing reason to care about what happens in their lives.”
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that “Hitchcock tells the story not so much as the making of the film, but as the behind-the-scenes relationship of Alma and Hitch. This is a disappointment, since I imagine most movie fans will expect more info about the film’s production history.” He adds, “This focus on Alma’s personal life is somewhat speculative and seems to have been employed … to skew the film in the direction of a ‘woman’s picture,’ of all things.” Ebert does heap praise on Mirren’s performance, however.
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle offers a positive review, writes that Hitchcock is “an entertaining, economical and thoroughly enjoyable glimpse into a familiar artist’s creative process,” though admits that the film is not very ambitious. Still, he says that good performances and interesting subject matter save the otherwise flawed film.
The harshest review thus far comes from The Wall Street Journal‘s Joe Morgenstern, who calls Hitchcock a “lifeless botch” that “rings false from start to finish.” He also criticizes Hopkins’ performance, arguing that the acclaimed actor plays Hitchcock with “little joy.” He continues, “And no wonder, since the writing, devoid of wit let alone wisdom, reduces its subject to a little cluster of behaviors.” He concludes that Hitchcock a “crime against biography.”
Did you see Hitchcock? Love it or hate it?