Creepy and fascinating, Hitchcock was an unexpected delight to watch. I am admittedly not well versed in the world of Alfred Hitchcock, but the movie was extremely well acted and full of clever nods to Hitchcock’s quirks and movies, even though I was only aware of that due to the knowing laughter of fellow audience members. I did a little research on Hitchcock after seeing the movie and felt like I got a much better sense of the director after that, so if you’re not a diehard fan of his, I suggest doing the same to make the movie more enjoyable.

The movie opens with the Anthony-Hopkins-played Alfred Hitchcock speaking to the audience to introduce the plot of the movie: the development and filming of the classic horror film Psycho. Horror movies at the time were not appropriate fare for the masses, and there was extreme disbelief that this would be a successful venture for Hitchcock. His life with his wife Alma Reville (Helen Mirren) drives most of the plot, though the strong supporting cast, including Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, James D’Arcy as a nervous Anthony Perkins, Toni Collette as Peggy — Hitchcock’s right hand woman — and Danny Huston as a romantic screenwriter, doesn’t fade into the background.

The cast is strong, but no one actor takes over the movie with a showy performance; the characters themselves are allowed room to breathe and evolve throughout the film. Mirren and Hopkins are likely to get Oscar nods for their performances; both are remarkably strong actors who have won before, and some of the best scenes of the movie are their confrontations with one another. Hopkins manages to add layers of realistic depth to Hitchcock to the point where I couldn’t decide if I liked him for most of the movie. There’s no denying that Hitchcock was a cinematic genius, but his voyeuristic and gluttonous habits add revolting aspects to his character. Mirren plays Reville with her characteristic fierceness and gives a few speeches throughout the film that will make you want to give a cheer for sheer awesomeness.

In order to make Psycho, Hitchcock had to finance the movie himself, and the success of the film would either make or break his family’s Bel Air lifestyle and his legacy as one of Hollywood’s finest directors. The filming of Psycho takes its strain on the Hitchcock marriage, as Alfred became more and more obsessed with all things horror and death, including frightening nightmares and visions of the real-life serial killer who inspired Psycho’sNorman Bates. A will-they-or-won’t-they subplot involving Revile is never as interesting as when the scenes where the camera is focused on Hitchcock and Psycho. Alma and Alfred are better when they’re together, just as Hopkins and Mirren are.

As we all know, Psycho was a huge success and possibly the most influential movie of Hitchcock’s career. But Hitchcock’s strengths don’t lie in the success, or even in the making of, Psycho, but it instead comes from the fascinating relationship between Alma and Alfred. Hitchcock was fond of saying: “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” At only 90 minutes, Hitchcock is just that: A short and sweet homage to a somewhat creepy man and the woman who loved him.

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