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(2012) (Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren) (PG-13)

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Drama: Director Alfred Hitchcock tries to make the movie "Psycho" while battling his own doubts and insecurities.
It's 1959 and director Alfred Hitchcock (ANTHONY HOPKINS) has just released the critically acclaimed "North by Northwest." The 60-year-old filmmaker, however, isn't one to rest on his laurels and is already on the hunt for material for his next film. While his wife and longtime collaborator, Alma Reville (HELEN MIRREN), isn't pleased with his choice, he's now decided on adapting the novel "Psycho" about a deeply troubled serial killer.

Ordering his assistant, Peggy Robertson (TONI COLLETTE), to buy all copies of the book so that no will known how the story ends, Hitchcock runs into objections from the head of Paramount, as well as the head censor who must give his approval for any film to be released in the United States. He manages to convince the latter that nothing scandalous will actually be shown, and informs the former that he and Alma will self-finance the movie.

Casting Anthony Perkins (JAMES D'ARCY) and Janet Leigh (SCARLETT JOHANSSON) in the lead roles and former leading lady Vera Miles (JESSICA BIEL) in a supporting one, Hitchcock begins filming. Alma, meanwhile, decides to help her married friend, Whitfield Cook (DANNY HUSTON), adapt his novel into a screenplay, all of which makes Hitchcock eye her suspiciously, while she has the same feeling about him and the actresses in his film.

As all of that unfolds, Hitchcock becomes increasingly insecure about most everything, all of which results in him imagining various interactions with the real-life inspiration for the source novel, Ed Gein (MICHAEL WINCOTT).

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Back in the "old days," an aspiring filmmaker had a difficult time learning about the movie-making process if they didn't attend film school or somehow manage to land an entry-level job on a film set. Sure, there were a few books and documentaries about the making of a handful of titles, but that was essentially it.

That all changed with the advent of the laserdisc home video format that allowed not only the addition of "making of" featurettes, but also running commentary -- as the movie played -- by the filmmakers, stars and/or other involved participants about the film's production. It was like having them sitting right there with you, discussing shot selection, techniques and such.

For those not fortunate enough to experience that, there was also always the occasional feature-length film that showed movies being made as part of the overall plot. Most featured fake films made up for the story, but occasionally there'd be one featuring a real life film. The latest example of the latter is "Hitchcock," an entertaining little flick about -- wait for it -- a filmmaker by the name of Alfred Hitchcock.

You know, the director who, for reasons unknown and unjust, never won an Oscar for any of his films, despite them including the likes of "North by Northwest," "Vertigo," "The Birds" and a little horror pic that changed its genre forever. That film was "Psycho," the 1960 release starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh and its quite famous shower scene that rightly started viewers in its day and age (and even many years afterwards).

As directed by Sacha Gervasi from a script by John J. McLaughlin (who adapts Stephen Rebello's non-fiction book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho"), this movie focuses on the famous director (played by Anthony Hopkins in convincing enough make-up, fat suit and vocal & physical performance) who attempts to choose, finance and then direct his follow-up film to "North by Northwest." And that's all while starting to believe that his wife and longtime collaborator (a strong Helen Mirren) is possibly having an affair with her married friend (Danny Huston).

I'll admit that I know next to nothing about Hitchcock (a.k.a. "Hitch") and his personal life, so I don't know how much of the story is based on fact vs. a fictitious flight of fancy on the part of the filmmakers. For those familiar with the famous film portrayed within it, this pic offers some fun little bits of behind the scenes activity ranging from the casting (including Scarlett Johansson as Leigh and James D'Arcy as an uncanny doppelganger of Perkins back at that time), to the choice of the infamous score and especially a scene featuring the director "orchestrating" (to himself) the response of a preview audience to that shower scene that will live in cinematic infamy.

That aside, those looking for some serious, in-depth insight will likely be disappointed as the film doesn't dig too deep beyond showing Hitch's insecurities toward his marriage and film work. Some of the latter is represented by imagined bits of him interacting with the real-life inspiration of his latest story, a serial killer by the name of Ed Gein (played by Michael Wincott), with them seemingly sharing some personality traits.

The former revolves around Mirren's character eventually having enough of her husband eyeing his young starlets while also getting all of the limelight for their collaborative work. Accordingly, she wants to work on something of her own, and finds that chance in adapting a book written by Huston's character. But he's apparently looking at adapting more than just that work, and that series of maneuvers starts to tantalize her.

Despite how those two aspects of the story might sound, it's all played fairly lightly -- mixed with some moments of charged drama (one of which could help earn Mirren a Best Supporting Actress nomination, while Hopkins could possibly get a nom in his category) -- and starts (and ends) by playing off the director's story introductions and concluding remarks from his old TV show "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

I found most of it fun and entertaining and didn't mind that the film doesn't mine too deeply either into the director's mind or the filmmaking process. Just enough of both are present to ensure that "Hitchcock" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed November 2, 2012 / Posted November 23, 2012

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