‘Hitchcock’ a film for the birds

By Sam Flancher

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most famous directors in cinema history. His storied filmmaking career spanned six decades and his creative output is nearly unmatched in the history of the medium. His films have stood the test of time and remain as thrilling and relevant today as ever. These chilling tales of murder and deceit are experienced viscerally, lending themselves to multiple interpretations.

Famous for his thrilling and macabre sensibility, the man behind the masterpieces continues to fascinate biographers. Hitchcock expertly crafted his public persona, wishing to be seen as a morbid master of horror willing to do whatever it took to elicit screams from the audience. “Hitchcock,” a new biopic directed by Sacha Gervasi, plays on this carefully cultivated image but does little to shed light on the man behind the legend.

The film recounts the production of the director’s 1960 classic, “Psycho.” Following the inception and production of the iconic and terrifying thriller, “Hitchcock” collects bits of trivia and molds them into a feature-length film. It offers details about the director’s relationship with his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), touches on his obsessions with blond leading ladies and chronicles the creative and financial woes involved in the making of the picture. It’s a story rife with possibilities to examine Hitchcock’s creative process and serves as a grand opportunity to discuss his approach to human relationships on and off the screen.

Even with such an array of explorable material, the film seems content with portraying the version of Hitchcock already embedded in the public consciousness. In an overly cartoonish performance, Anthony Hopkins brings little life to “the master of suspense.” Any attempts at humanizing the director are undercut by the campy, trivial nature of the film. His struggles with his wife, his creative anxiety and dangerous behavior toward his lead actresses are all explored, but none are given adequate comment or examination. Gervasi offers a limited image of Hitchcock as a dark, demanding master of horror.

“Hitchcock” is constructed with little flair for the kind of filmmaking its subject is famous for. Devoid of ambiguity, examination and suspense, the film relies on cheap tricks and one-dimensional characters. While Hitchcock made films that were wildly popular and entertaining, they always included a subtle mastery of subtext exploration. The film is told in broad, brash strokes, one event predictably leading to the next.

There’s little artistry in the way the relationships are portrayed, and the whole exercise feels clichéd. It’s a film that entertains with superficial trivia and clumsy storytelling. It stands as an affront to the creative prowess of Hitchcock, a man whose enduring legacy is best examined through the films of his own masterful construction.