Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Psycho Move, Qu'est-ce Que C'est?

The company was better than the movie.

My fellow Hitchcock fan joined me for a jaunt to the near west end to catch "Hitchcock" at the Westhampton.

She's the ideal film buddy because of our innate screen compatibility.

No movie I suggest is too outre for her, no foreign film too obscure.

We were made for each other cinematically-speaking, with one notable exception.

Inexplicably, she doesn't like butter on her popcorn.

She's perfectly normal otherwise.

So we compromised with less butter than I wanted and more than she cared for and proceeded to watch a 2012 take on a 60-year old director making his seminal film "Psycho" in 1960.

Which brings up my first complaint with the movie.

If you've ever watched a film from way back then, you know people looked differently than they do now.

Hairstyles, make-up, jewelry, even colors worn were different.

A crowd scene during the premiere of "Psycho" screamed "21st century people," the girls with coral lipstick and the boys with parts in their hair being the only concessions to mid-century looks.

Surely we can do better than that, film people.

But Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren are top notch actors, so at least there was that.

Mirren, especially, shone as Alma, Hitchcock's wife of many decades and a screenwriter and film editor in her own right before she married the master of suspense.

One thing the film did make clear was how much Hitch depended on her judgement and eye whenever he made a film, because both were unerring.

And, let's face it, we all know that behind every great man, there's a magnificent woman.

In this case, the woman was trying to lessen his corpulent frame by hiding the foie gras and serving him raw vegetables instead.

That is, when she wasn't putting up with his obsession with blonds.

And speaking of blonds, let's talk about casting.

James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins not only convincingly looked the part, but conveyed the sense of a closeted actor uncomfortable in his own skin.

It was Perkins to a "T."

But Scarlett Johansson (as Janet Leigh) and Jessica Biel (as Vera  Miles) were never even partially believable in their roles.

Not for a second could you forget who they were in the real world and it detracted from their performances.

I'd say in a case like this of a bio-pic, far better to choose a lesser-known actor (or even unknown) and let the character portrayed shine through rather than watching someone play someone else.

Unfortunately, director Sacha Gervasi didn't seek out my opinion before casting.

Once the film ended, my friend and I sat through the credits and beyond, discussing the film's shortcomings (the unnecessary Ed Gein character on which the book Psycho had been based showing up to advise Hitch) and strengths (Mirren and to a lesser degree, Hopkins).

Acting aside, I'd have to say one of my favorite parts was the idyllic beach house rental where typewriters and wine awaited Alma and her writer pal on a deck almost touching the ocean while they worked on a screenplay.

I say if you can't find your muse with wine, sunshine and crashing surf, it's time to head back down the Pacific Coast Highway, honey.

And back to a man who can appreciate buttered popcorn.

Sometimes it's the best part of a movie.


  1. From the first frames of the train shed scene of "North by Northwest"...where Cary Grant's character is eluding his pursuers...all the classic elements of a Hitchcock production are evident--- the wide encompassing overhead shot revealing the situation at hand. The style,dress, mannerisms of its war America. Sprawling, confident, yet murky in its cold war illusions. Few movies ever capture the past correctly. At best a monumental task. Even historians are sometimes overwhelmed. Hitchcock was the master. Not having viewed this latest film, it would be unfair to judge. From your observations it seems to have fallen short. Why would we think otherwise?


  2. So. Lincoln it was not.

  3. CW,
    Funny you mention N x NW because "Hitchcock" begins with Hitch trying to figure out how he can top the success of that movie. He ends up going in a new direction (horror) for just that reason.

  4. Anon,

    Correct. Nor did it have scores of my bearded friend for eye candy!