“Hitchcock” dramatizes Alfred Hitchcock directing “Psycho” in 1959 with a middlebrow tone similar to that of last year’s “My Week with Marilyn,” which imagined Marilyn Monroe’s role behind the scenes of the 1956 film “The Prince and the Showgirl”: “Oh you movie people, really” and “For all your kinks and foibles, we do quite like what comes of all of it.” Two memoirs by a third-assistant director related the offscreen drama of the blonde American star with sniffy Brit theater types in “My Week with Marilyn,” while here, Stephen Rebello’s 1990 nonfiction book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” supplies background for John J. McLaughlin’s screenplay, directed by Sacha Gervasi (screenwriter of Spielberg’s “The Terminal” and director of “Anvil! The Story of Anvil”). Welsh-born Anthony Hopkins does a delicious impersonation of the portly auteur, with Helen Mirren co-starring in a well-crafted turn as Alma Reville, Hitchcock’s wife and collaborator. (Reville, Mirren, Hitchcock and Gervasi were all born in England.) “Hitchcock” deftly blends a love story with backlot history: the making-of detail is far more than gossipy backdrop. During the production of “Psycho,” Alma also works on a screenplay with a seductive writer who flatters her. Alfred wrestles with studio execs, as well as his notorious erotic fixations on blonde actresses. The couple exerts as much wile to maintain their marriage as they devote to “Psycho” in McLaughlin’s telling. The “master of suspense” (once billed in 1939 as the “master of melodrama”) called it his first “shocker.” With Scarlett Johansson, Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel, Michael Stuhlbarg, James D’Arcy, Michael Wincott, Richard Portnow, Kurtwood Smith. 93m. (Bill Stamets)
“Hitchcock” opens Friday at River East.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.