It is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This may be true, yet hardly in the case of “Hitchcock,” where imitation is less complimentary and more something that will have the late “master of suspense” rolling in his grave.
First we have Anthony Hopkins, donning a terrible make-up job and enacting a scenery-chewing impression of the classic filmmaker. Then, to push the knife in further, “Hitchcock” relies solely on references to drive its narrative (and attempted sense of humor) forward.
So, in other words, if you recently visited the Alfred Hitchcock Wikipedia page you will likely understand most of “Hitchcock’s” jokes—but that does not mean you will find them funny. The entire film is exhaustively crammed with rib nudges and winks at the audience—none of them really that clever—and assumes that because the present audience understands the jokes while the characters don’t, this makes the jokes witty.
So when Hopkins’s shadow appears against the wall to mimic the classic Hitchcock silhouette (multiple times, mind you), this speaks for the entire movie’s style of humor. People unaware of Hitchcock’s history may find some of the central premise interesting—which follows the production of Hitchcock’s hit “Psycho”—but anybody who has ever read about it, heard about, or even remotely aware of it will enter a movie experience of painful reiteration. The Wikipedia page I mentioned earlier would be a lot less painful, and one would probably find it far more interesting.
It would probably be a more comfortable experience too, as “Hitchcock” unwisely tries to balance its poor humor with poor taste—attempting to dive headfirst into the director’s psyche and easily drowning in the process. It has been understood that Hitchcock was a bit of a creep and a bit of a “psycho” himself, but the movie turns his perversions into parody.
Most unnervingly hilarious is Hitchcock’s delusional conversations with killer Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the person whom the story of “Psycho” is based upon. Balanced with failed attempts at centering on Hitchcock’s obsessions with his leading ladies—here, Scarlett Johansson plays Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel is Vera Miles—and his marriage to Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), the movie crafts a love story that feels wrong on so many levels.
This is mainly for the fact of just being underdeveloped, which the movie feels during almost all of its running time. The lazy, half-hearted attempts in script really stand out in a movie where awards-mongering performances are the only other aspect where some effort is being placed, even if that effort is entirely misdirected.
Sloppy, obnoxious, and completely reliant on reference-based humor and audience awareness, “Hitchcock” is this year’s inevitable Oscar-film that I just can’t stand. All I wanted to do was to pull the shower curtain back and go all Norman Bates on this movie. If you understood the joke I just made and laughed, maybe you should go to “Hitchcock.” There are about a thousand of those.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.