How do you live with a man who is extremely talented, perhaps a genius, but who is insecure, resentful, often dismisses you, puts you down, is a peeping tom and seems determined to prove that everyone else in his industry is wrong?
In Hitchcock, staring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as his wife Alma Reville, Hitchcock believes the Hollywood film industry want him to make the same kind of film over and over again, so he chooses as his next project Psycho, based on a book about a serial killer (Ed Gein) who kept his dead mother mummified, and killed attractive young women who came to his motel. It was 1959, and Hitchcock proposed showing a woman being stabbed to death in the shower, and evidence being flushed down a toilet. Back then, cinema just didn’t show those things. Everyone is against the project.
These are the twin themes in this film: Hitchcock’s determination to prove the industry wrong, and the effects on Reville of a living with a man who most of us would think was impossible to live with.
The first theme begins when Hitchcock is asked at the premier of his latest movie, North by North West, whether he is too old to continue making movies and should just retire. As she hears the question, Reville freezes. We can see how deeply she knows the question will hurt Hitchcock. Hitchcock sets out to prove everyone wrong, but chooses a project which nobody will fund. When the studios won’t finance the film, Hitchcock mortgages their house and tells Reville that if it doesn’t work out they’ll be eating crow for a long time. In fact, they’ll probably lose their house and may become bankrupt.
The filming is soon behind schedule, and Hitchcock doubts whether the still ‘has it.’ Reville also has doubts, which are implied, but not directly voiced. As the film progresses, Hitchcock’s doubts grow, until he refers to the film as being ‘stillborn.’
The second theme revolves around Hitchcock’s constant overeating and drinking, his obsessing over actresses that he could probably never attract, his lechery (in front of his wife) and his suspicions of Reville’s relationship with a fellow writer, Whitfield Cook. As Cook and Reville work together on one of Cook’s scripts, Cook tells Reville that a lot of great men are “impossible to live with, but worth the effort.” Eventually Hitchcock accuses her of having an affair with Cook, at which point Reville gives Hitchcock a blast over the time she spends supporting him, and the little recognition or gratitude she gets for any of it. After they have a reconciliation of sorts, Reville turns her energies into helping Hitchcock “whip Psycho into shape.” When Paramount Pictures decides to release the picture in only two cinemas, Hitchcock comes up with an ingenious plan to get the film the publicity it needs. It went on to be regarded as one of his best films.
The acting in this movie is superb – especially that of Helen Mirren as Reville. In many scenes the main emotional impact is conveyed merely by the expressions on Reville’s face, without the need her to say anything. If Mirren doesn’t get an Oscar for this, I’ll be very very surprised.
This film is well worth the money. If you haven’t seen it, I hope you’ll consider it.
So what did you think of Hitchcock and his films? Do you have a favorite Could you have lived with a man like that? And did you ever watch the original of psycho? I’d love to hear what you think.