From the opening sequence with Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) wielding his shovel with surprisingly (literally) deadly effect, followed by the “Master of Suspense” engaging in a signature introduction (accompanied, of course, by Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette”), hopes are high for an engaging portrait of one of the finest filmmakers (along with the likes of Stanley Kubrick) who never got an Oscar.
Alas director Sacha Gervasi and the writing trust (book by Stephen Rebello; screenplay by John McLaughlin) opted to employ two psychos in the production. The literal—James D’Arcy is superb recreating Anthony Perkins in the brief role of closeted Norman Bates—fires on all cylinders; the fictionalized is more “stillborn” than the twice-mentioned review of failed work.
Anthony Hopkins chubs up well as Alfred Hitchcock yet is forced to crack silly jokes (“Just call me Hitch—hold the …”) that jar the characterization but probably made their creators laugh. The famed director’s own dark side (regular chats with long-gone Gein) is too on-the-nose to do the wizard-of-suggestion homage or justice.
Helen Mirren’s gritty, uncompromising take on wife/co-writer (largely uncredited) Alma Reville ought to be an awards contender.
Danny Elfman’s original score skillfully prepares the ear for the famous shower scene’s shrieking violins and makes effective use of the bass clarinet when an equally “reedy” mood and tone is wanted. However, just plain ridiculous is the juxtaposition of the “Scherzo” from Beethoven’s mighty “Eroica” with TV cartoons: the depiction of troubled minds deserves much better than that in the metaphor department.
The definitive portrait of the man who drove cinematic craftsmanship to the next level remains to be made.
Good evening. JWR