Review – Good EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEvening… (“Hitchcock,” “The Girl”)

Mark your calendars, because I’m predicting that Anthony Hopkins will take home the Academy Award for Best Actor for this role. He deserves it!

Working from a terrific screenplay by John J. McLaughlin and based on Stephen Rebello’s book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho”, this is what the recent HBO movie (“The Girl”) only tried to do…and failed.

Hitchcock (Hopkins in astonishing makeup and voice) has just finished “North by Northwest” and can’t seem to find his next source material for a next movie. His fiercely loyal but exasperated wife, Alma (Helen Mirren–matching Hopkins in every scene), thinks her friend and screenwriter Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston) has an idea, but Hitch nixes it and sees potential (and money) in a new book out called “Psycho” by Robert Bloch. He loves the true story of twisted murderer Ed Gein who doted on his mother… even after death. He snaps up the rights and Paramount green lights the movie… provided Hitch pay for producing it! Well, so much for trusting in a man’s talent.

Anyway, casting gets underway with beautiful Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson) as the doomed heroine, the quirky (and closet gay) Anthony Perkins (James D’Arcy–an uncanny resemblance to young Perkins) as creepy Norman Bates and Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) who proves to be Hitch’s thorn-in-his-side. Soon the movie is in trouble what with the Standards and Practices Board; not allowing a flushing toilet and nudity to be seen, Hitch’s delusions that his wife is cheating on him, his binge eating when upset, and then there’s the shower scene debacle…

Hitch is headed for a nervous breakdown…and gets one, having his strong-willed wife to pick up the pieces by re-writing the script and shooting the rest of movie. In the chaotic ending, the movie is a huge hit (Hitch’s biggest money-maker) and he and Alma reconcile their tumultuous relationship.

From the opening/closing shot where Hitchcock speaks to the audience, this movie is a delight – never showing the master as a letch or monster (like the HBO film), but only as a hard working, demanding perfectionist that loved his craft with an intensity that few understood. The makeup on Hopkins is amazing to say the least, but only matched by Hopkins vocal register and nuance of Hitchcock’s that sold his performance. Kudos to Helen Mirren who gave Alma Hitchcock a voice (and such a strong one, too), and not just a sad-sack punching bag as was her counterpart in the HBO film. An Oscar worthy film all around.
The movie gets released on November 23. Get in line now!

THE GIRL (MADE FOR HBO MOVIE)

Weird title, I know.

Anyway, this Hitchcock docu-story is about the master director (played by Toby Jones) and his search for the next girl to star in his next picture. He finds Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller) with the help of his long-suffering wife, Alma (Imelda Staunton). Hitch’s next pic is “The Birds”, a rather bizarre (but, aren’t they all?) story of a quaint little seaside village that suddenly gets terrorized by a vast array of birds ranging from seagulls to crows.

Tippi, eager to work for Mr Hitchcock (c’mon, who wouldn’t?) and leave a modeling career behind her, accepts the lead role, even though she’s never done a movie before. It seems that “Hitch”, as he likes to be called by his closest friends, has a eye for the ladies…especially pretty, leggy, blond ones and soon puts the ol’ moves on Tippi, much to her horror… and not in the good way!

This Hitchcock doesn’t take rejection well from his female star and takes it out on poor Tippi by subjecting her to exhausting multiple camera takes, long days on the set, real bird attacks instead of using fake birds, and all the while still ogling her from his director’s chair. Tippi keeps her head together, ends the picture, and is even given the lead again in Hitch’s next movie, “Marnie” with Sean Connery. Even though Hitchcock knew that Tippi rebuked his advances, he still tried his best to seduce her, much to her chagrin. But it was her traumatic experiences on “The Birds” that made the old master look like a old bastard.

Bad casting here had this HBO movie ‘jump the shark’ at the get-go: Toby Jones as Alfred Hitchcock didn’t make the cut. He was too short, too lean, and although he did sound a little like Hitch, he didn’t have the playfulness or deep vocal resonance (like Hopkins does) that we have come to know about one of the world’s greatest directors. Sienna Miller, on the other hand, was spot-on as Tippi Hedren. But all in all, portraying Hitch as “director dearest’ didn’t sit well with me and really, there’s no reason to lambast the man at this point, is there?

So far, you can only see this movie on HBO, but if don’t have cable, you’re not missing much – trust me.

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