In Hitchcock, Sacha Gervasi’s broadly enjoyable pop-art biopic about Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho, Hitch (Anthony Hopkins) imagines having conversations with Ed Gein (Michael Wincott), the ’50s serial killer whose grisly exploits inspired the novel that Psycho was based on. These tête-à-têtes sound like a gimmick, and are, except there’s an audacity to the movie’s perception of what Hitchcock was up to. He wanted America to identify with a very sick puppy — to see the mad killer in all of us. With Psycho, Hitchcock didn’t just break Hollywood’s rules. He slashed them to death.
Hitchcock is an exuberant film about moviemaking that’s not going to win any awards for its pinpoint accuracy. Hopkins, under pounds of latex, doesn’t look all that much like the real Hitch, and there are only moments when he truly sounds like him. (Toby Jones, in HBO’s The Girl, got more of that morosely deliberate Cockney growl.) Though Helen Mirren does an irresistible turn as Hitch’s wife, Alma (who was his shadow collaborator), it’s doubtful the middle-aged Alma was this sexy. Yet the two actors create a vital portrait of a unique showbiz marriage. And when it comes to how the Master of Suspense bucked the system to get Psycho made, Hitchcock serves up a slice of cinema history so compelling it nails a reality beyond the details. My favorite moment is surely an invention: the director in the lobby during Psycho’s premiere, ”conducting” the orchestral rhythms of the shower scene — and the audience’s screams. It’s a perfect summation of why he was the ultimate filmmaker. B+