This is one I have been very keen for. I am only a recent fan of the Hitchcock films. I began with Vertigo (1958) a couple of years ago. Then I stumbled on to North by Northwest (1959) and a year ago I watched Psycho (1960), all brilliant films. Psycho still is the standard for all slasher films. It scared the pants off me, and was wildly imaginative. While Hitchcock doesn't aim to scare your pants of, this biopic is also imaginative and extremely entertaining to watch.
The film begins with Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) murdering his brother. Ed Gein is the eponymous and infamous figure used as inspiration for many of the franchises that have defined the horror genre. When Gein is finished murdering his brother, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) steps alongside and gives a keen insight as to why he picked Psycho as his magnum opus. The film details the trials and tribulations that Hitch went through to produced and direct this adaptation from the book, as well as the personal hurdles he and his wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), had to cope with. In the end, everything turned okay and Psycho turns out to be a success. Sorry to ruin the ending for you, but it is kind of a given.
Anthony Hopkins is perfect in his personalised fat suit and Hitchcock impression. While the majority of the movie is dedicated Hitchcock's perfectionism in filming and narcissism in life, when Hitchcock gets down in the dumps, you feel for the fat guy. Will Alfred live up to his own expectations? Will Hitchcock live up to Alma's expectations? Yes. And Alma; Helen Mirren was equally as enjoyable to watch as the straight woman to Hopkins. A wonderful double act.
Some of the subplots seem a little misguided during the course of the movie. I can understand how they relate to Hitch and how it builds into the main plot. However, they are less entertaining and engaging than the overall making of Psycho story. The same could be said of the supporting cast. Jessica Biel as Vera Miles (as Lila Crane) was annoying to watch. How does she still get work? She really should have stopped at 7th Heaven. Scarlett Johansson plays Janet Leigh (who plays Marion Crane) without a great deal of effort. Tony Collette (playing Hitchcock's assistant) doesn't get as much screen time as she deserves.
This movie probably won't win a lot of awards. It is straight forward with no extreme and exciting narrative or character development. But what it does do, it does well. It will earn a lot of laughs and a lot of praise for the performances of Helen Mirren, Toni Collette and, of course, Anthony Hopkins. Not a great film, but a great making-of film.