PSYCHO (1960). As a fan of the real Hitchcock and the classic film era portrayed in HITCHCOCK, I was glad I checked the movie out, but my overall reaction was "meh."
The film chronicles the struggles of Alfred and Alma Hitchcock (Hopkins and Mirren) to make the daring PSYCHO, which had "mature" themes and a level of violence unusual for its time. The Hitchcocks mortgage their house to raise the money to finance the film and deal with censors, negative studio personnel, and Hitchcock having a bout of poor health.
Some aspects of the film were interesting, but overall HITCHCOCK felt more like a TV-movie than a high-caliber theatrical film. It had sort of a fake quality to it; I felt more aware than in most biographical pictures that scene after scene of the Hitchcocks alone together was made up or exaggerated for the sake of drama. And while Mirren had no difficulty playing the lesser-known Alma Hitchcock, Hopkins struggles a bit to maintain Hitchcock's unique persona and to simultaneously break past that and make him human. Hopkins is a fine actor but I never quite felt his Hitchcock came alive.
Of the supporting cast, I enjoyed seeing how Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel portrayed Janet Leigh and Vera Miles; Johansson in particular does well portraying Leigh as a wholesome mother off the screen. I had no idea that was Ralph Macchio of THE KARATE KID playing the screenwriter until the movie was over! Overall, however, the characters depicted are shallow representations of the real people.
Unfortunately, due to legal constraints the makers of HITCHCOCK were limited in terms of their ability to portray the original PSYCHO in the current movie. This may have contributed to the film having a lack of historical accuracy; as Lou Lumenick wrote a few weeks ago, the film strongly implies that PSYCHO was shot at Paramount, rather than Universal. This might not be a distraction for some people, but any Southern Californian who's ever taken the Universal Studios tour knows that the PSYCHO house is on the Universal backlot! (My photos of the house are here.)
The aspect I most strongly disliked: The fantasy sequences with Hitchcock seemingly haunted by a real-life criminal. These scenes were violent and disturbing, and if they were meant to give some insight into Hitchcock the person, I don't think they accomplished that. They simply distracted from the story at hand.
The supporting cast includes Toni Collette as Hitchcock's assistant, Peggy Robertson, with James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins, Danny Huston as writer Whitfield Cook, Michael Stuhlbarg as Lew Wasserman, and Paul Schackman as Bernard Herrmann.
HITCHCOCK was directed by Sacha Gervasi. The screenplay by John J. McLaughlin was inspired by the book ALFRED HITCHCOCK AND THE MAKING OF PSYCHO by Stephen Rebello. The running time is 98 minutes.
Parental Advisory: The movie is rated PG-13 for violent images and sexual content.
The DVD has not yet been released.
A postscript: To this date I've not seen PSYCHO...and having seen HITCHCOCK, I'm even less likely to ever get around to watching PSYCHO!