HITCHCOCK has received a lot of negative reviews, so I was a little afraid to watch it. Long before I ever had thoughts of attending film school I had seen every Hitchcock film, including the obscure silents (mostly thanks to the Brattle Street theater in Cambridge). I've read a ton about the man and his movies and he is undoubtedly one of the major reasons I went into film. I have read and written about PSYCHO, and my paper on the score to NORTH BY NORTHWEST (link here) is required reading at a number of schools. Having seen the rubber face and fat suit in the trailers, I assumed I would hate the film.
Boy, was I wrong.
At times the latex mask Anthony Hopkins wears is distracting, unfortunately the first scene in the movie is probably the worst. And the fat suit is a bit fat for Hitch at that time in his life. The problem is that his TV show has made his real image unforgettable, so no matter how good the makeup is, it's a distraction. In Oliver Stone's NIXON, they chose to use no makeup at all on Hopkins and let his acting convince people. That worked fine.
The second problem that many critics had was the choice to make Ed Gein a fantasy character in the film. This is definitely a little weird. Also the casting for Gein is off. He was not as dirty and unkempt as the movie makes him look. That's more of a conceit for the horror film versions of him. It is an odd choice to include him, but he is only in a few scenes, including a really lame dream sequence that Hitch himself would never have used as it is such a ridiculous cliché.
Nonetheless there is a lot to like about this film, directed by Sacha Gervasi, who directed the great documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil (reviewed here). Hopkins is great, as is Helen Mirren playing his wife Alma. Helen is a lot more attractive than the real person, but that I will forgive. Scarlett Johansson is well-cast as Janet Leigh, and Jessica Biel is passable in her minor role as Vera Miles. Toni Collette is wasted as Hitch's secretary; the role must have been much larger at one point, otherwise I can't image why she did it.
Visual design is excellent, lots of nice period touches to the film. Sound work was very good as well. Danny Elfman and his music crew did a good job on the score. Apparently they were not allowed to use much from the original film, there are only a few short quotes from the score, and no images from the film. One of the best scenes in the film manages to be brilliant in the way that they avoid showing the film itself and instead show Hitch and the audience's reaction to the shower scene. It's a wonderful acting moment for Hopkins.
I highly recommend the film!