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Movie review: 'Hitchcock' explores making of 'Psycho'
Perhaps the most outlandish of these scenarios comes during a fiendishly clever opening sequence featuring a gruesome murder by ghoulish Wisconsin sicko Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), real-life inspiration for Robert Bloch's sordid novel, “Psycho.” Into this hellish setting steps a supremely arch Hitch, delivering a juicy “Goood Eevening” intro reminiscent of his “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” TV show. Thereafter, Gein's ghost reappears periodically in the director's fantasies to deliver some creepy psychological asides.
Along with creating a rich tableaux of period Hollywood, Gervasi populates the film with credible doppelgangers for the real players — glossy Scarlett Johansson as “Psycho” star Janet Leigh; mild-mannered James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins/Norman Bates; brunette Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, one of Hitch's failed blonde conquests, and sturdy Toni Collette as the director's long-suffering assistant Peggy Robertson.
Naturally, much of the attention will fall to Hopkins' sly performance, replete with the master's portly profile, his black undertaker's garb and his plummy, elongated accent with its Cockney undertones. It may be a cartoonish bit of mimicry, but it's hugely entertaining to watch. Mirren, who is physically the opposite of the plain-faced, birdlike woman she portrays, nevertheless delivers a potent performance of quiet frustrations and unassuming competence.
“Hitchcock” is the latest event in a recent resurgence of interest in the great director — along with the tawdry portrait of him in HBO's “The Girl” and a restoration of his grand silent-era films by The British Film Institute. While it may be too fanciful and not definitive enough for purists, it's undeniably pleasant and engaging and serves to remind us what great fun this maestro of the macabre had in scaring us.
— Dennis King
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Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, James D'Arcy. (Some violent images, sexual content and thematic material)