Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hitchcock (2012)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Makeup and Hairstyling - Howard Berger, Peter Montagna, and Martin Samuel

The biggest danger of any work of art about another work of art is that the latter will pale in comparison to the former, even if they are very different creations.  This is the problem I had with Hitchcock, which left me wishing I had spent my evening watching Psycho instead of the story of how the classic film was made.

Hitchcock tells the story of Alfred and Alma Hitchcock's struggles to make the film Psycho, an endeavor in which few believed.  According to the film, the Hitchcocks battled through skeptical studio executives, marital troubles, potential financial ruin, and Hitch's own demons in order to make Psycho.

While the making of Psycho was certainly fraught with difficulty, there is not nearly enough drama to sustain the running time of the film.  The filmmakers instead rely on underdeveloped insinuations about Hitchcock's famously creepy obsessions with his leading ladies and a personification of his inner demons in the form of Ed Gein, the inspiration behind Norman Bates.  These digressions are divorced from the film's central narrative, never coming together to form anything resembling a cohesive script.

As is the case in any biopic of a recently living famous person, the film cannot even begin to succeed unless the actor or actress in the lead role pulls off his or her transformation into the famous subject.  Anthony Hopkins turns in a solid performance as Hitchcock, but even though I was able to forget I was watching Anthony Hopkins, I never became entirely convinced I was watching Alfred Hitchcock, as I did while watching Meryl Steep in The Iron Lady.  This wasn't due to any shortfall in Hopkins's performance, but instead to a lack of character development in the screenplay.

Helen Mirren, freed of any responsibility of portraying a famous person - how many of us know what Alma Hitchcock looked like, let alone sounded like - steals the movie.  She is fierce yet tender as Alma, both protective of her husband but also infuriated with him.  It's a performance of contradictions, and it left me wishing that Hitchcock was about the other Hitchcock.

The film's sole Oscar nomination came in the makeup and hairstyling category, presumably due to the makeup work done to make Anthony Hopkins resemble Hitchcock, since it is the only makeup work of note in the film.  The makeup work was well done, but it in no way compared to the creativity of the makeup in The Hobbit or the vast scope of the work done in Les Miserables.  Hitchcock's hairstyling work was also nice, particularly that of Scarlett Johansson in the role of Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, but once again does not seem to be enough to be worthy of an Oscar nomination.

If nothing else, Hitchcock made me anxious to watch Psycho again, a film I haven't watched in a few years, and anything that makes its audience revisit Psycho deserves recognition.

Remaining: 3152 films, 872 Oscars, 5412 nominations

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